College instructor challenges students to spread kindness in honour of fallen Calgary police officer

Scott Mark, an instructor at Bow Valley College, initially wanted to challenge his students to spread kindness in an effort to connect them and lift spirits at the prospect of another semester of online learning.

“I was playing with my kids in the backyard and there was fresh snow for my kids and the girls laughed and had a blast with it,” the Airdrie man said.

“One of my friends that I sent it to said, ‘Can you do that in your swim trunks?… and I thought… ‘Well, maybe that would get the students going… that would give them some engagement.’”

Mark agreed to taking a leap into the snow in his swim trunks if the students participated in the challenge and used the hashtag #kindnesschallenge on social media

“The reality is 2020 and the start of 2021 has made it harder for people to see the kindness out there,” he explained.

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The death of Calgary police officer Sgt. Andrew Harnett on New Year’s Eve had Mark reconsidering the challenge. Having worked for more than 10 years as an officer in the forensics unit, Mark felt conflicted, but ultimately felt if anything, it highlighted the need to spread goodness in the Calgary area.

“I somewhat retreated from the idea of being playful or fun with my students about policing at all,” Mark said.

“I thought it seemed wrong to be that way, and what the world lost was a truly great and kind person.”

Mark had the opportunity to meet and work with Harnett and felt it was important to honour his memory.

READ MORE: Funeral and procession held for Calgary police officer Sgt. Andrew Harnett 

“I realized that the idea behind it was to spread kindness, and that’s what the world is really missing these days,” he said.

His students embraced the idea and have started using the hashtag as they complete small and simple good deeds.

Chandra DeLaney said the act of removing ice from a path in her neighbourhood resulted in an opportunity to connect.

“I went out with an ice pick and as I was tidying it all — part way through it — one of my neighbours came out and helped,” DeLaney said. “It took like an hour and a half but it was really good.”

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Mark has agreed that if there is enough student engagement that he will jump in a snowbank on Feb. 28.

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