NIU students promote acts of kindness

February 12, 2009 4:31:22 PM PST
Nearly one year after the shooting, students and staff want to change the university's image.One year ago this Saturday, a gunman killed five people and wounded 21 others on the campus of Northern Illinois University.

That Valentine's Day NIU became known as another school to find itself the target of a gunman. Now, one year later, some are trying show outsiders what they say is the real NIU.

The world watched last year as students in Dekalb felt the wrath of a gunman.

We watched as the students grieved and absorbed the tragedy. The images brought international attention to Northern Illinois University.

One year later, Cole Hall, the site of the shooting where five students were killed, is closed. Among them was Ryannne Mace, an honor student.

There were nineteen other honor students in Cole Hall when the gunman randomly fired into the crowded auditorium.

NIU's honors program, students and staff want to change the image of the university.

"We felt this was an inspiring way to kind of counter the memory of a horrible act by having thousands of random acts of kindness," said Kate Braser, NIU Honors Program.

They call it 'Huskie Acts of Kindness,' postcards honoring the memories of those who were killed by highlighting good deeds.

"I feel like this is a good way to represent our NIU campus and say that despite what happened this is who we are," said Dina Bach, NIU honor student.

The cards are distributed to people on campus and in the community. Recipients jot down their acts of kindness and the cards are displayed at the honors program.

"Everyone feels want to erase it but you can't so I think for this community and for this campus for everyone to just comfort each other and this is the way you feel good, doing an act of kindness yourself," said Braser.

Among the kind acts so far:

- I shoveled my elderly neighbors driveway after every snowfall.
- Gave money to a homeless man.
- I fed the parking meter of a stranger.
- I said bless you after a friend sneezed.

The university's president is proud to see students finding ways to move forward.

"These are accomplished young people who have looked at tragedy and they've gotten over it and moved forward. But they're not forgetting, they've got this great character," said Dr. John Peters, NIU president.

In acts large and small, organizers of the acts of kindness campaign hope with attention to the one year anniversary of the shootings, those off campus will get to know another side of NIU.

The cards will be displayed until Saturday. Afterwards, organizers will share the acts of kindness cards with the families of the students who died.

Coming up on Thursday at 6 p.m., ABC7 willl look at changes on campus to prevent violence, including new in-classroom surveillance.