Guest post by Nili Bartley, Brooke McMullen, and Crew 202 from Hopkinton, MA

I didn’t realize the power behind signing YOU MATTER until after we did it. The second I reviewed the video my students so beautifully created, I knew we captured something that was impossible to foresee.

Last year, my class adopted a “big sister” who instantly became a role model for all of my students. Her name is Brooke and although her sister, Allison, was in my class last year, we held onto Brooke for another year and hopefully will hold onto her forever. Why? This is no ordinary 21 year old.

Brooke is almost fluent in American Sign Language after being a teacher’s assistant for a professor who is deaf. To Brooke, the importance of sign language is not limited to individuals who are deaf. She uses sign language to communicate with children who are non-verbal.

Before she learned sign language, Brooke became involved in the Best Buddies organization. Best Buddies provides one-to-one friendships and job opportunities to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This organization has been Brooke’s inspiration and motivated her to run the Boston Marathon with their team the past few years to raise money for Best Buddies.

As if that wasn’t heroic enough, Brooke has also helped us to see how sign language goes beyond serving as a form of communication for those with hearing and verbal impairments. She has helped us discover its potential in reaching the world.

My students understand now that if everyone knew how to sign YOU MATTER, we could reach everyone. Cultures could join together in expressing the two words that we have come to know, thanks to Angela Maiers, as the two most powerful words in the world.

Spreading the YOU MATTER movement has changed my students, the culture of my classroom, and it has most certainly changed who I am. We try hard to listen, look, nod, and smile and we never let someone go without telling them THEY MATTER. Brooke knows SHE MATTERS to us – a college student studying abroad with her whole life ahead of her chooses to spend her Fridays Skyping with us, because she believes that WE MATTER too.

In Brooke’s Words:

When you give or receive a thumbs-up gesture, it communicates a certain message. Most of the time it means “good job/nice work/that’s fine.” A thumbs-up is not nearly as powerful a message as YOU MATTER.

No matter how many times I’ve done presentations and speeches I get anxious and nervous. The bigger the crowd, the more dry my mouth gets. Sometimes I forget the speech and mess up because fear and embarrassment take over. I’m certain that many people can agree with this feeling, maybe they avoid giving speeches altogether.

A thumbs-up or smile is encouraging, but imagine how powerful it would feel if someone signed YOU MATTER? It’s those two words, YOU MATTER that make people feel important and special. It makes people feel understood and appreciated. If someone were to sign YOU MATTER before I gave a speech, it would have a tremendous impact on my confidence. It would remind me that no matter what mistakes I make, I am special, I am important, I am unique.

When I sign YOU MATTER to others, I am encouraging and accepting them no matter their different abilities.

We are so fortunate in that Brooke has joined us for the the next step in our journey: signing our message to the world. As the video states, “Just two words can make your brain party every time…you matter.” The first part of this message cannot be neglected as this is a message that kids gravitate to. When Jayne Shea, our amazing guidance counselor was able to meet with inspired students about the science behind smiling, she told them that research states, “Your brain has a party when you smile.” From that point on, my students were hooked and we know our job has just begun.

How Will We Keep the You Matter Movement Going?

  • Crew 202- We will sign the You Matter message in our video daily as a reminder that we all need to know WE MATTER. We will also share it with every classroom and ask them to do the same.
  • Jordyn- I will simply smile back to the person and tell them that they matter. It is such a simple gesture, but it can make someone’s day.
  • Dalmar- I will smile and wave.
  • Libby- I simply plan to help people out when they need it, because it makes me feel good, it makes them feel good, and it will hopefully inspire them to help out too.
  • Kyle- I will make sure that everyone believes that they matter. If you don’t think you matter, you don’t take risks. Nobody should believe that they don’t matter, because everyone does matter.
  • Sofia- Maybe I can perform a skit to spread smiles!
  • Luke – I can smile to people in the morning, which will be a good start to the day and will show them they matter.
  • Morgan- I will tell people they matter and encourage them.
  • Maddie- I will look at the person who is talking to me.
  • Emma- I will inform people about the science behind You Matter and will inspire people around the world to help with this movement.
  • Zach – I will make a video really proving “You Matter”.
  • Zach – I will tell everyone I talk to that they matter!
  • Lex- I will put smiles on people’s faces by giving them high 5’s.
  • Nolan- I will tell everyone possible that they matter.
  • Bianca- I will tell everyone I talk to that they matter.
  • Shalin- I will smile to anyone who is in a bad mood.
  • Angie’- I will smile, smile, smile, and say to people that they matter! I will also try to make someone feel better if they are sad and tell them they matter!
  • Robert- I can say “hi” and “you matter” to everyone I meet and inspire them to do it too.
  • Luke – I will find people and tell them they matter.
  • James Rameez- I will be kind.
  • Kylie- I will sign “You Matter” and smile at everybody and make sure people know they matter. When you know you matter, people believe you can do anything.
  • Maura- I will simply smile! A smile lifts your mood and you feel good. KNowing you matter or seeing a smile can change your day. We can change the world! YOU MATTER!
  • Casey- Spreading You Matter should be simple. Smiling, telling people They Matter, and just listening to them is what You Matter means to me, so that is what I will do- it’s just easy!
  • Nithi- I can keep saying, “You Matter” to people and Angela Maiers and everyone else out there.
  • Ria- I will tell people outside of school and inside that they matter. Then they will spread it. And it will go all around the world.
  • Mrs. Bartley- I will look each of my students in the eye every day and encourage them to change the world, because they can.