Virginia first lady recognizes PG guidance counselor as 2021 Kindness Ambassador

By Zach Armstrong

PRINCE GEORGE, Va -- Prince George Guidance Counselor Anna Payne was recognized personally by First Lady Pamela Northam on Wednesday as the 2021 Virginia Kindness Ambassador as part of the Virginia Department of Education’s first ever Virginia Kindness Week.

Philip Jones and Monica Curtis were also recognized by the Virginia First Lady for their efforts in the counseling department. The award was presented at Prince George High School.

“We heard all the way up at the capitol in Richmond amazing stories about the heroic work that was happening right here that your counseling team has done,” said Northam. “Supporting students and their choice of whether or not to attend school or in-person, lending a caring or listening ear to provide emotional well-being and providing critical and sometimes life-saving intervention,”

Gov. Ralph Northam recognized Feb. 14-18 as Virginia Kindness Week to recognize that “simple day-to-day acts of kindness enable our schools, communities, and Commonwealth to be a kinder, safer, healthier, and more inclusive place” and that “kindness helps us to form meaningful connections with others, which are reported to be a strong factor in increasing happiness,”

A release by the Governor cited the reasons kindness in the classroom is essential such as the way it “fosters empathy, builds community, reduces bullying and nurtures a safe and welcoming environment” and that promoting kindness encourages inclusivity by “extending an opportunity for grace, empathy, dignity and acceptance to all citizens of our Commonwealth,”

For those who wish to take part in the initiative, options include creating a kindness challenge board, making a kindness idea board and recognizing others for their kindness.

“I can't tell how proud it makes me to see a member of Prince George Schools honored in this way because it could be any [member of PGCPS] and this is just one wonderful representation of our whole school division,” said Prince George Superintendent Lisa Pennycuff

The Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni was also present to present the award, saying that “I knew it was already very challenging for teachers, counselors and administrators because we deal with situations where we want to do the best for children but when you put a global pandemic over that, it creates more challenges and opportunities,” said Qarni. “Focusing on social and emotional support and being kind and gentle to each other is so essential and necessary”

“With the weather we’ve had lately, I’m reminded of the quote that kindness is like snow, it beautifies everything it touches and I think about that with your work and the wonderful folks here at Prince George,” said Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam.

Payne says that while encouraging acts of kindness may have been challenging during such a tumultuous year, there is still some silver lining.

“In some ways, I feel like the pandemic has allowed us to be even more accessible to students in that, when done virtually, they feel a lot more comfortable reaching out to us so I would say that’s one positive thing that’s come out of all of this,” said Payne.