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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How Two Middle Schoolers Spread Holiday Cheer with 800 Sticky Notes

Damian Marlow

Notes of encouragement, student, Axtell Park Middle School, Sioux Falls, SD

Editor's note: Mary MartinezSmith, an eighth grader at Axtell Park Middle School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, co-authored this post.

Not very many people really know what it's like to do something that affects not only hundreds, but thousands. Some would say those with big dreams, simply put, are just dreamers. Others might say teenagers who dream big are trying to do something beyond their power. Many people would like to say they not only had that dream, but they accomplished it. Yet few actually can. We, Mary MartinezSmith and Damian Marlow, are proud to say we are two of those few people. The catch? We did it just by putting sticky notes with positive messages on every locker in our school.


Not everyone knows about our little "mission" -- and we're actually kind of happy that some don't, because in the past week, we discovered that being famous isn't always that great. We're also proud to say that it wasn't what we were going for.

Fame and Fate

Our goal or "mission" came on a whim. After we read an article about Operation Beautiful, where a girl stuck 900 sticky notes that read "you're beautiful" on every locker in her school, we started talking about doing something similar. We didn't take it seriously at first -- it was just an idea, but then it started taking shape. Then, as we walked down the hallways of our school, it clicked. And the idea slid into place.

You see, we didn't realize that putting 800 sticky notes with positive messages on 800 lockers was bound to get you noticed, especially when someone's already done something pretty close to it.

Our whole focus was on making someone's, anyone's, Christmas break better. We didn't care who it affected, as long as it was positive. If it affected someone who was being abused, we were hoping it would help them remember to hold on, that someone is there for them. If that followed them to their Christmas break, we achieved our goal.

Not many people believe in fate. By that, I mean that not many people actually believe in a destiny that was written when they were born, a destiny where every choice counts. They don't think about the little things. They don’t wonder, "What would have happened if I smiled at that girl in the hall instead of looking away?" Our question is: what if fate planned for you not to smile at that girl -- what if it planned for that girl to kill herself, and you just became another statistic in her life? Did fate mean for us to not notice the person who needed to be noticed, or to notice everyone that needed to be noticed?

Our decision wasn't a matter of what fate had planned for us -- it was a matter of who we wanted to be. The question, along with the answer, was simple.

Good Will and Good Advice

After preparing 750 sticky notes, we thought the rest would be easy. Well, it wasn't. We thought we had enough sticky notes for all the lockers. It turned out that we didn’t. Luckily, I had a pad of 45 sticky notes in my bag, which we used, sticking them on lockers and writing on them. After about ten lockers, a lady asked if we needed help, and we accepted. She helped us with the rest of the lockers. I wish we knew her name. We have a lot to thank her for. She was still there to help us even when we ran out of the extra pad of sticky notes.

Quickly, I found the nearest teacher, Mrs. Thie, and asked to borrow a pad of sticky notes. She gave one to me without even asking why, and I ran off, glad we still had a chance to finish this. Thanks to the mysterious lady, along with Mrs. Thie, our science teacher Mrs. Cork, and our gym teacher Miss Singleton, who also gave us sticky notes, we got all of our work done -- and just in time.

The process wasn’t easy. That's probably the first thing we'd tell someone who'd want to accomplish this mission. It eats up time, and it's kind of stressful. Whoever wants to pull this off would probably also want to start preparing more than one week ahead of their deadline. In the short period of time we gave ourselves to prepare, we grew anxious and crammed. I'm not very good with having a lot of things to do in a short period of time. My mind gets stuck, and sometimes won't start properly working again until much later. Anyone choosing to undertake this mission would probably also want to have 200 more sticky notes than they think they'll need. We thought we'd need only 700, and it turned out that we needed a little more than 800. All in all, the best advice we could give is to make sure that you over-prepare. Trust me, it'll save you in the end.

And another thing to anyone who would like to pull this off? It's all worth it in the end -- the rush, the supposedly "wasted" time, the headache. All of it’s worth the effort. That is, unless you count feeling amazing about yourself as not worth it.

Damian Marlow

Notes of encouragement, student, Axtell Park Middle School, Sioux Falls, SD
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