Negativity in their school environment inspired a pair of New Milford High School students to action.

"We thought some compliments coming everyone's way would be nice," one of the NMHS freshmen said recently. "So we decided to start a Facebook page where people, even if they were shy, could give compliments to those around them."

That Facebook page, New Milford Compliments, was created in December by the two students -- inspired by other compliment pages they'd seen.

Their efforts are part of a growing climate of acceptance and support taking root in the large school, which includes ongoing and significant efforts by the longstanding NAMES Club.

A survey taken last school year on the social climate in the school brought results that sparked immediate action.

The survey on school morale revealed 35.5 percent of students, 21.9 percent of parents and 20 percent of staff were not proud of their school.

It indicated 76.9 percent of students, 52 percent of staff and 42.9 percent of parents felt student-to-student threats were not unusual.

Dr. Chris Longo, an assistant principal at the school, is chairing a new School Climate Committee this year, designed to foster a positive school culture, wherein student concerns and input are valued.

"We want to show students that we listen to them," Longo said, "and that fostering positive behavior at the school can be accomplished with a team approach."

The New Milford Compliments page description reflects the survey findings:

"I think it is fair to say that everyone has witnessed or experienced bullying and hate, and most people would agree that everyone deserves a compliment once in a while."

Since December, the page has been "friended" by students throughout the school. And the compliments flow.

Compliments are sent to the page administrators (the two young students) and then posted on the page. Anonymity is promised for anyone sending a compliment.

"We don't want to identify ourselves," one of the two freshmen said. "There's a lot of negative comments made by some students to other students and we want to be anonymous in doing this."

One of the recent posts on the Facebook page was a compliment to the two administrators:

"New Milford Compliments -- What you guys are doing is absolutely amazing! I can't thank you enough for making this page! You should feel so proud of yourself for what you are doing. Don't ever change, you are wonderful. Ugh. I wish I knew who you were, you deserve the biggest hug in the worldddd."

Kris Kaczka, an advisor to the NAMES Club, applauded the two young students for taking the initiative to set up the page.

"Any action that students take themselves to support a sensitive, kind environment is great," she said. "I love that they took control."

Ms. Kaczka added that efforts have been under way for several years at the school through the NAMES Club to end bullying and institute a positive supportive atmosphere at the school.

"Our goal with NAMES is to create an opportunity for students to become leaders in making our school inclusive for everyone," Ms. Kaczka said. "That can be hard for teens. It's hard for a lot of adults.

"Some kids get it and really move forward with it. Some need consistent reminders," she added. "We have to remember that 90 to 95 percent of the kids are kind and supportive -- and we just have to cultivate that."

For more NAMES Club photos, visit

Photography by Norm Cummings