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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A surprise at Crystal Lake Middle School brought smiles to a lot of students and teachers.

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Those smiles were the reason they received the reward to begin with.

Out of 500 competing schools, Crystal Lake Middle placed Second in the entire country for the Middle School Kindness Challenge.

It’s a national competition promoted by the organization Stand for Children.

“Students would go to other students classrooms and say hello and introduce themselves,” says 8th-grade student Taniya Kearst.

She says that’s an example of one way they worked to make their school more unified.

They were rewarded for being a place that welcomes new students.

“I know how they feel to be new– new environment, new people,” says 7th grader Destiny Corker. new environment, new people. “You just want to be exposed to, like, kindness and not have that feeling like you’re not welcome.”

She says she noticed a change over the last four weeks.

“It honestly helps everybody get to know each other and feel like you’re part of the school.”

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You could say the kindness challenge is the epitome of “friendly competition.”

Monday morning, a crowded gym of students and teachers donning neon yellow “Kindness” T-shirts cheered as they were presented with a $1000 check.

Principal Sabine Phillips says that money will support activities promoting kindness at the school, such as purchasing gift cards as a reward for acts of kindness big and small.

“We made it a challenge, yes, but we want it to be part of the culture at all times for students to be kind,” she says.

Some of the work that set them apart is the new tradition of sending Kindness Cards to fellow students, collecting 300 backpacks, and working with Feeding South Florida to bring meals to students in need.

“You guys should keep it up,” says 8th grader Shaneilla Josephs, “Because you never know what someone is going through.”

In this particular competition, the Golden Rule of treating others as you want to be treated is the one that led them to victory.

Crystal Lake Middle school was one of 10 national finalists, and they were the only one in the state of Florida.

To learn more about the Middle School Kindness Challenge, visit

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Broward County Public Schools is the 6th largest school district in the nation and the second-largest in the state of Florida.

Karli Barnett