Bonnie Boboia’s sixth-grade son, Vincent, was struggling to fit in.
The Boboia family had moved from Chandler, Ariz., to Leander last year, making the already thorny middle school years a little more difficult as Vincent tried to navigate a new school and make friends.
“They’re going through an awkward stage,” Boboia said. “I didn’t realize how hard it was until I saw my son go through it. It’s such a hard time in all of these kids’ lives. I wanted to do something to uplift them.”
So Boboia, a graphic designer, got to work this summer, spending hours designing and cutting vinyl to create positive messages within the bathrooms of Stiles Middle School.
Like Boboia, teachers and volunteers spent hundreds of their own dollars and their last days of summer vacation drawing and painting positive words in bathrooms — mostly on stall doors but also on walls and mirrors — on campuses in Bastrop, Georgetown, Hutto, Leander, Pflugerville, Round Rock and San Marcos.
When students return to school starting Wednesday, they’ll be greeted by various inspirational messages:
“You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing.” “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” “Kindness changes everything.” “You are enough. A thousand times enough.”
Such bathroom stall art started at an elementary school in Arlington in February and quickly has become a national school trend after the work went viral on social media and was publicized by news outlets.
“We serve kids with a lot of personal struggles here. The more we can do to make this a happy place, the better,” said Melinda Gardner, principal of Lost Pines Elementary in Bastrop. “Seeing these positive, kind messages is contagious. It helps them reciprocate and give that same kindness and take these messages to heart.”
The volunteers targeted the bathrooms, where students get a quick minute to themselves and sometimes go to regroup. Several said if the letters get torn down or damaged during the school year, they plan to put them back up.
“We’re at a point where we need to make sure everybody feels they have value. Sometimes young people don’t feel that,” said Connie Gooding, school board president in the Hutto district, where volunteers put up encouraging words on bathroom stalls at each of the district’s 10 schools. “Without it being spoken, young people sometimes retreat into the restroom, a quiet place, somewhere where they can be alone with their feelings. As they look in the mirror and see that message, whether they know it or not, it’s a subconscious recognition that someone took the time to do that for them.”