Last week, Staples, Inc. held the first Staples for Students Kindness Summit, an event bringing together youth, educators, and experts for an engaging discussion about the importance of promoting kindness to create a positive classroom experience as students across the country begin a new school year.

The Chicago event was co-hosted by Born This Way Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, to support the wellness of young people and empower them to create a kinder and braver world.

At the Staples for Students Kindness Summit, Born This Way Foundation unveiled the Illinois-specific results of its new survey: Kind Communities – A Bridge to Youth Mental Wellness. The findings – drawn from a nationwide study – explore how a young person’s mental health is impacted by their relationships and environments, including their classrooms.

During a panel discussion moderated by educator, author and CNN Education contributor, Dr. Steve Perry, thought leaders and local stakeholders discussed key findings from the study, including:
• More than 40% of Illinois high schoolers say their schools are not kind communities. Just 57% of the state’s high schoolers say they are in a community where people are kind. This is concerning as the survey shows a strong correlation between youth who describe their environments as kind and better mental health indicators.
• Illinois high schools are doing a good job providing at fostering kindness in several key ways. For example, the state’s high school teachers are significantly more likely to say hello to students as they arrive in the morning – 55% compared to 45% nationwide – which the survey found to be an important indicator of kind school communities.
• Illinois youth are stressed. Half of high school respondents say they are stressed, in line with the national average, while 73% of college students and 69% of employed youth use the word to describe themselves, exceeding the national average for both groups.
• Illinois parents vastly underestimate the role of stress in their children’s lives. While one in five young people in the state report being a very nervous person all or most of the time in the past month, just one in fifteen parents describe their child that way. This discrepancy is significantly larger in Illinois than it is nationally.

“As kids across the country head back to school, we understand that filling classrooms with kindness and positivity is just as important as making sure they’re stocked with the right supplies for the school year,” said Michelle Bottomley, chief marketing officer, Staples. “We’re thrilled to be working with Born This Way Foundation to shine a light on the importance of kindness in the classroom, and to ensure that students start the school year off on a positive note.”

Members of the Staples for Students Kindness Summit panel included: Maya Enista Smith, Executive Director, Born This Way Foundation; Raul Palacios, Ed.S., Research Assistant, Born This Way Foundation; Gerard Kovach, an 8th grade teacher at McCutcheon Elementary School in Chicago; and Kishoanda Johnson, a local young person who received Born This Way Foundation’s Channel Kindness Award for her work with The Night Ministry, a Chicago homelessness services organization.

“We know that students do best in schools that are kind, supportive, and empowering,” said Cynthia Germanotta, president and co-founder, Born This Way Foundation. “It was inspiring to hear today from some of Chicago’s amazing students and teachers about their commitment to fostering kindness in the classroom and beyond.”

To help Staples for Students and Born This Way Foundation support teachers and students nationwide, make a donation in Staples stores or online at

Announcing Chicago Funding and Digital Kindness Tree Launch

In the spirit of helping create positive classroom experiences, Staples also announced that 890 teacher projects on in the Chicago area will receive full funding as part of Staples’s $1 million donation to the organization. is a charity that has funded more than 900,000 classroom projects for teachers since its founding, benefitting more than 22 million students.

With a donation of more than $400,000 to support Chicago classrooms, Staples impacted 612 teachers and more than 85,000 students in the community.

Earlier this month, Staples and Born This Way Foundation teamed up to create the Staples for Students Digital Kindness Tree to encourage people nationwide to promote kindness in schools and celebrate everyday acts of kindness. Consumers can help it grow by visiting or by Tweeting with hashtag #GrowKindness. On the website and Twitter, users have the opportunity to describe an act of kindness that they recently performed, witnessed or pledge to do. Each time an act of kindness is reported, a “leaf” will be added to the tree, which will continue to grow throughout the summer with each kind act reported.

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