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Students behind inspirational messages around Vincennes

December 26, 2018

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) — The signs spread throughout Vincennes have inspirational messages, like “Just Breathe,” ″Smile more, laugh often,” and “Do small things with great love.”

A group of students at Rivet Middle High School is behind them.

“Mrs. Herb came into class one day and said, ’OK, I have this crazy idea and we’re going to do it,” said senior Olivia Lankford with a smile.

“I do that a lot,” Jillian Herb said, piping up from behind a desk across the room. “So they’re used to it.”

The idea came to Herb, a religion teacher at the Catholic school, as the recent election season wrapped up in November. Tired of seeing political signs around town — and the negativity that often comes with them — she was inspired to take those same signs and change the overall message.

“So after the elections were over and people were taking their signs down, I asked if they wouldn’t care to donate them, if they weren’t going to use them again,” Herb said.

She then enlisted the help of her religion classes, and after collecting about 20 signs, they set to work transforming them to feature little messages of encouragement, kindness and love — everything from “Be the reason someone smiles today” to “Be the best version of you” and Herb’s personal favorite, “You are Enough.”

Local residents, too, have begun posting about them on social media. Perhaps one of the most shared on Facebook, Herb said, is a sign on North Sixth Street that simply says, “Just Breathe.”

“I saw someone post a picture of that one the other day with a caption, ‘I needed this today,’” Herb said with a proud smile.

And the community’s positive reaction has left the Rivet students feeling encouraged — if not a bit surprised.

“We all thought it was a good idea, but I don’t think we really knew how big it would get or how many people would see them,” said Caroline Herman. “But as we drive around and see them, it’s nice to know that we did something positive for our community.”

“We turned a sometimes negative thing, and turned it into something positive, signs meant to brighten someone’s day,” added Rivet student Tia Tolbert.

Herb said nearly 60 of her students helped to make the signs, using white paper and markers to create the new, inspiring messages then laminated them to make them weather resistant.

Herb herself then spent the day scattering them throughout the city after getting permission from officials to do so.

And only a couple, she said, have disappeared so far.

Herb challenges her students to various community service projects throughout the year. In the past, they’ve picked up trash, volunteered at the city’s animal shelter and read to Head Start students at Pace Community Action Agency.

“Mrs. Herb wants us to learn about religion, read our textbooks but also to show people our faith,” Herman said.

But this will go down as one of Herb’s favorites, the teacher said, as it showed her teenagers that the biggest impact can come from the smallest of signs.

“I want them to see that they really can make a difference,” Herb said. “I think, a lot of times, they think, ‘I’m just one person. I can’t change the world.’ But the more we do these projects, the more they realize the impact they have.

“I want them to understand that if you have a good idea, if you think of something that could benefit the community, then do it.”

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Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial

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Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com

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