This Teen Proves Post-It Notes Can Change The World

Caitlin was invited to speak at this year's TedXTeen event. You can watch her full speech here.

All Images Courtesy of Caitlin Prater-Haacke

This story is part of our Choices Changemakers series, where each month we spotlight teens doing amazing things in their schools and communities!

In a span of 48 hours, Caitlin Prater-Haacke wrote 800 Post-Its—one for every single classmate at her Canadian high school. Despite some hand cramps, the teen headed into school on a Monday last fall and stuck the notes on all of the lockers. With quotes like "You're a sprinkle cupcake in a world full of muffins" and "You're beautiful," her goal was to make everybody's day a little brighter.

So, what spurred this positive Post-It movement? Believe it or not, it all began with a bout of bullying.

After a classmate broke into Caitlin's locker and used her tablet to post a mean message on her Facebook page, Caitlin contemplated filing a complaint, then decided that she didn't want to perpetuate the negativity. "I realized that wasn’t really solving anything," the 17-year-old says. "That was taking something negative and implementing a negative right back—a punishment."

That's when she had her light bulb moment and realized she could combat cruelty with kindness. Her original goal was to remain anonymous and not have anyone know she was the mastermind behind the Post-Its. She preferred her classmates to focus more on the message than the person behind it.

That morning at school was unforgettable. She remembers,

When the bell rang first thing in the morning and students walked into the school, they were looking all over the lockers. Like, “What’s on the lockers? Why’s there a piece of paper on every locker? Are we in trouble?” But it wasn’t that. It was amazing to watch people start reading them. There was crying, and there was laughing. It was really, really beautiful.

As is common in high school, word began to spread, and people started talking. Soon enough, Caitlin's identity was revealed. All throughout the day, her peers approached her, thanking her making a difference and giving them that burst of encouragement when they needed it most. They shared personal struggles they were dealing with that were made a little bit easier by a kind note. "I never thought that a 3-inch-by-3-inch piece of paper can change the world. But it really can," she says.

Thanks to the impact at her school, Caitlin's story went viral and she decided to start an initiative called Positive Post-It Day in countries all over the world—from Brazil to Japan to Australia. This year the event falls on Thursday, October 5. (More details on how to get involved below!)

If you're feeling inspired by Caitlin's message, but don't know where to start, she shares this advice: "Dare to be crazy. You never know the impact something can have." Whether you want plaster your hallways with kind messages or another idea that may seem too far-fetched, Caitlin says to go for it—no act of kindness is too small and no act of kindness goes unnoticed.

Want to get involved in this year's Positive Post-It Day? Caitlin shares how: "Whether you find Post-Its in your house and write one for your neighbor, your sister, your brother, or whether it be going to the store and making one for every kid in the school, don’t ever doubt how far the positive phrases can go."

For more Choices Changemakers, read about Trisha, who used her coding skills to stop cyberbullying BEFORE it happens, and Alex, who brought a salad bar to his school. After that, join this month's Choices Challenge and go on a mission to spread kindness!