This Teen Used Instagram To Boost His Classmates' Spirits
This story is part of our Choices Changemakers series, where each month we spotlight teens doing amazing things in their schools and communities!
Never underestimate how far a few kind words can go. That's what Konner Sauve learned when he created an anonymous Instagram account to publicly compliment hundreds of his classmates at East Valley High School in Yakima, Washington. Konner's story went viral back in June, but he wasn't trying to gain Internet fame at all. Instead, his goal was to let his peers know that they're not alone—no matter what.
"In the past, our school had those accounts that post mean comments about people... I was thinking of a positive spin to that," says the 2015 graduate. "I wanted to let people know that someone was there for them."
The project began last August when Konner created the account and posted a thoughtful message for a girl named Alyson, who graduated in the class of 2014. Konner recalls, "During high school, there were so many rumors about her. I just didn’t want her to leave thinking, 'I’m so glad I’m out of this place.'"
From there, the idea spread like wildfire. He continued posting a compliment for every single senior, along with all of the juniors and some of the sophomores. (He even posted one about himself, so his identity would remain a secret!)
When the school year began, people talked about the compliments account, but mistakenly believed it was temporary. This motivated Konner to make it a year-long initiative. He says, "The best part was trying to prove people wrong and that this was going to keep going. I just don’t want it to be a few weeks thing." Even when he got stressed with schoolwork, he stuck to the plan. Continuing to post the compliments helped put things in perspective and reminded him that, at the end of the day, human connections matter more than any test score or history essay.
As for why promoting positivity online matters, Konner says that not everyone feels like they have a support system. This feeling of loneliness is only exacerbated by social media—especially if those individuals have to face cruel comments online. "It's important that everyone feels appreciated and special in their own way," he explains. "They do have their own purpose, whether other people try to bring them down or not."
With wisdom like that, it's unsurprising that Konner was his high school valedictorian. It wasn't until his graduation speech that he revealed he was the one behind the account. He added an extra paragraph to his speech (which he later posted on Instagram). Here's an excerpt:
There is one quote in particular from Maya Angelou that reads “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I find this such an inspiring quote because over the past year I saw a change occur in our high school, a positive one, it seemed as though we were more united than we had been in the past...
After 657 posts, over 11 months, and finishing each person in the Class of 2014, Class of 2016, and of course our Class of 2015, I would like to ... admit that I am “thebenevolentone3.” Benevolence being defined as “characterized or expressing goodwill or kindly feelings.” In the end, I realized that we are ALL the benevolent ones in our way and actions of how we treat others....
If you want to follow Konner's lead and spread kindness, he shared this advice for his fellow teens:
Show the world a brighter side to life... Even though people may say, “You’re not going to have that attitude forever, it’s going to fade away,” you just have to keep going. It’s your decision to wake up happy everyday or mad or upset. And when you make the decision to be happy, you find happiness everywhere you go.
For more anti-bullying Choices Changemakers, read about Trisha, who used coding skills to help her peers rethink cyberbullying, and Caitlin, who started Positive Post-It Day. After those inspiring reads, be sure to join this month's #MissionPositive Choices Challenge and do your part to spread kindness!
Images: TheBenevolentOne3/Instagram; Shutterstock