Last week, messages of positivity and love greeted students returning from fall break at Haddonfield Memorial High School. The walkway in front of the school was covered in chalk, encouraging students to “spread love not hate” and “lead with love.”
About 25 students arrived before the school day began on Monday, Nov. 14, and wrote the messages in hopes of letting students know they are in a positive, loving and supportive community.
“A lot of people are angry and scared about (Donald) Trump being our president, but anger and negativity won’t do anything,” junior Chloe Fontaine said. “Trying to spread positivity and love and make people feel safe will do more good.”
Fontaine was spurred to action after seeing similar positive chalk writing on the library steps while visiting her sister at Yale University.
“Instead of focusing on negativity toward Trump, they were focusing on positivity and spreading love, strength and power. It is a scary time for a lot of different people, and I think a lot of people don’t feel like they have people they can go to or people that support them,” Fontaine said. “I think by making (the chalk messages) all positive, a lot of people realized other people were feeling similarly, or even if not feeling the same way, that people understood and we’re there for them. That is why we did this — to spread something positive.”
At the end of fall break, Fontaine texted five of her friends about her idea, and the interest among her classmates grew so quickly that a Facebook group was created with more than 70 members. Although not all participated, even having more than originally planned was a pleasant surprise, Fontaine said.
“I was nervous and worried people didn’t feel the same way. When I saw so many people did feel the same, it made me feel better. I think that made people feel comfortable,” Fontaine said.
“It was good to see a group of people who all felt the same way as us so we could support each other,” fellow junior and chalk writer Sophie Pancoast said.
The students met at 6:20 a.m. and started writing messages along the sidewalk, from the entrance of the school down to the road. There were messages talking about love, hope, equality and strength.
For the most part, students and members of the community who saw the chalk writing appreciated its message, Fontaine said. There were students who stopped to take pictures or point out particular messages to friends.
Some messages — particularly “love trumps hate” and “build kindness not walls” — were washed away with water at day’s end. A few students fixed the “love trumps hate” message.
“The message we were trying to spread was positivity, love and strength. Some people are taking it as anti-Trump, as a negative protest,” Fontaine said. “The main message we were going for was to make people feel like they were safe and that other people were feeling the same way.”
Fontaine, fellow junior Taylor Bee and Pancoast hope their message came across. Though they couldn’t vote on Nov. 8, they felt doing something positive over the negativity seen around the nation was something they could do to help.
“The election is over, but the presidency hasn’t even started … and there are hate crimes happening all over the place,” Bee said.
“We can’t even vote yet,” Pancoast added, “but doing this within our community shows we all have voices and that we can do something.”