KAUKAUNA - At first glance it looks like a typical study group. But with each squeak of the marker these girls are one stroke closer to their goal. They're making a Valentine's Day card for every single student in their school. The idea is a labor of love that came from senior Karissa Hildebrand.
"My main mission was to impact one life. And to make people feel like they were worth something and special," said Karissa Hildebrand, Kaukauna senior.
She started the project, hoping to help classmates who may be battling depression, and let them know they were not alone. Since 2009, five students and two teachers in the Kaukauna district have taken their own lives.
"You know with a lot of the suicides that had been happening, that there were people that cared about them, and loved them and that every day was worth living," said Hildebrand.
"It's just a great reminder to know that someone out there actually does care for you," said Elizabeth Franzke, Kaukauna senior.
"Even if it's like a bad day, that message, it impacts you. Even though it's a sentence, it does," said Bobie Jo Whalen, Kaukauna senior.
"Truly a wonderful example of how one person, one idea can have such a powerful impact on many," said Michael Werbowsky, Kaukauna High School principal.
Werbowsky says Karissa and her Valentine's Day project are an inspiration to others.
"Those small little messages from that one person created such discussion and an impact on our whole school community. It was really incredible," said Werbowsky.
The messages are put on everyone's locker, seven words, hoping to make a big difference.
On Wednesday night, Karissa and her group of volunteers spent time at the high school, hanging nearly 1,700 messages throughout the school. One on each of the lockers.
"You know it's one of those things that you don't think is going to be such an impact, but it truly ends up being more than you think. It's just one of those cool things that always stays in my heart, and is a good reminder to me to make sure people do feel loved," said Hildebrand.
At Kaukauna High School, on this Valentine's Day, there's no way to miss that message.
Karissa's idea is expanding to other area high schools. This year, students in Neenah and Kimberly did similar projects, on this Valentine's Day. Karissa hopes even more schools do it next year.
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