In the fall of 2019, nine Ransom Everglades School middle school students were featured on a segment of The Today Show talking about kindness. They were asked what it means to be kind and their responses included showing respect to other people and how kindness is a universal language. They discussed the impact of social media and ended with this simple advice, “It is never too late to be kind.”

Four years later, Ransom Everglades invited those same students, now juniors and seniors, to meet for a few photos in memory of that episode. The students did not know that they would be asked to take the same seats as in the 2019 interview and field fresh questions about kindness and the school’s newly unveiled core values.

Ransom Everglades head of school Rachel Rodriguez and chief operating officer and interim head of the upper school David Clark engaged the students in an impromptu discussion, and the students shared some encouraging insights. These 11th and 12th graders spoke about kindness and the relationships they have built through the past four years.

You can view an excerpt of the discussion and read what the students had to say below.

Ransom Everglades Students in 2019 (top) and 2023 (bottom)

It’s really nice to see how my relationships with the people in this room have blossomed from that moment [in 2019]. It’s really wonderful to see everyone’s growth and how far everyone has come.
Kaitlyn Gonzalez, senior

Kindness is kind of at the heart of everything that you have to do, and everything that we do … I don’t think there’s anyone, not even just in this room, but anyone here at Ransom Everglades, no matter what grade they’re in, that I feel I couldn’t talk to … I know I was in my ceramics class and there’s someone who’s a senior who’s very, very good at math, and so I just asked him – I just pulled out a book – and I was like ‘How do you do this calculus problem?’ There’s no kind of clique-i-ness that prevents you from going to somebody else and seeking their help and their input on whatever you’re doing.
T. J. Malone, junior

Ransom Everglades fosters entirely different groups of people and communities around you that you would have never thought of. Ransom allows you to go somewhere you’re comfortable, and then rip you completely out of your comfort zone to make sure that you grow in ways you would have never thought possible and try new things and meet new people.
Tyira Jackson, senior

Ransom as a community transcends campus. I’ve been fortunate enough to tour alumni who were here in the ’70s, and just learning about the kindness that’s been here for so long, and how community isn’t something that’s new. It’s something that’s been here since it was Ransom Everglades, until they joined together. I think we’re approaching the 50th anniversary of the school joining together. So I think that’s really a testament that we are a community that keeps growing, but kindness anchors us together.
Francisco Gomez Rivas-Vazquez, senior

I feel like ever since the beginning of our time at Ransom Everglades, we’ve always had this comfort in being able to talk to each other, trust each other, and this confidence that everyone would be kind and empathetic no matter what. A big amount of this ability to make new friends and to avoid cliques was because of this kindness that we’ve always expressed to each other. 
Sindhu Talluri, junior

I feel like a lot of that atmosphere is dictated by the teachers and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much kindness as I have from my teachers at this school, and really just how passionate they are about helping me find my passions. They’re always there to listen to my ideas – even if sometimes they’re silly – and to just help me with anything I need. I’ve just seen so much kindness through their willingness to help me succeed.
Mia Bouyoucef, junior

I think we see honor and excellence in every branch of Ransom Everglades because we have very rigorous classes and it’s an inherently hard-working community. It’s very easy to be mean when you have such hard classes and you’re very busy with extracurriculars, but to add kindness, which is propagated throughout this community, into honor and excellence really adds sort of the tying feature, like the boat, to the present of what Ransom Everglades is meant to stand for.
Danny Mendelson, junior

One quality of excellence that I really value from my teachers is the respect that’s in the classroom. It’s not just from the students to the teachers, but it’s also from the teachers to the students. That particular quality I feel brings a different level to the classroom, not just academically. There’s a comfort in the classroom that you get from two-way respect, and I feel it doesn’t just make learning easier, it makes it more enjoyable. When I know that my teacher values my input – whether or not it’s intelligent or not – it facilitates discussion and debate and I feel like that’s what the classroom should be about.
Zoe Katsoufis, senior

There’s just such a wide range of opinions, and you’re able to discuss them. Even more than just being able to discuss your opinions is being able to discuss them respectfully. Just sitting at lunch, talking to people about different things – whether it be sports, whether it be politics, whatever, I enjoy how you’re always able to have a respectful discussion. Even though I can be talking to somebody who on just such core issues I disagree with them on, I’m still able to say, ‘Let me open myself up to your perspective,’ and they’re able to open themselves up to my perspective. And we’re able to say, even though I don’t agree, I understand your viewpoint. I understand where you’re coming from. You’re able to have intelligent, respectful discussions here.
T. J. Malone, junior

Today I was in criminal justice class, and we ended up talking about the origins of the police and police reform. That’s a very sensitive topic because there’s so many layers and nuances to it that tie into the construction of America as a whole and systemic racism, but it was an educated conversation. It was a discussion where everyone shared viewpoints and perspectives … That level of education and excellence that is in the Ransom community is so overwhelmingly impressive, that I was so happy in class today. Even if not everyone agreed with me, I felt like everything was woven together in such a way where I felt supported and I also felt like other people were supported, and new ideas were welcome. A lot of people were sharing their thoughts in class, even the really shy kids that rarely ever talk. and people weren’t talking over each other. That kind of thing happens at Ransom Everglades and it’s part of our culture, it’s part of our core.
Tyira Jackson, senior

I agree, I think that culture of diversity and inclusion, the willingness to talk about sensitive topics intelligently, it’s not just teaching us to be good citizens of our community, of our country, it’s teaching us to be good citizens of the globe, the world. I feel like Ransom Everglades uniquely fosters that spirit that we are not just working for ourselves but for the betterment of all.
Zoe Katsoufis, senior

The wide range of clubs that we have at the school also allow for a celebration of our diversity because we have assemblies celebrating the Chinese Culture Club or LASA (the Latin American Student Association) and it’s a wonderful way of spreading joy while recognizing our diversity. So I feel all our five core values really intertwine with one another and it’s really wonderful to see.
Mia Bouyoucef, junior

Our community is like a safety net. At least in my case, whenever I’m feeling tired one day, I know I always have that group of friends who ask me, “Are you okay? Is there anything we need to help you with or know about? Can I get you a coffee?” They’re always really supportive. And I really think this is ultimately what creates this joy and wellbeing that all Ransom Everglades students feel on a day-to-day basis.
Thomas Crowley, senior

And the small things like playing music on the senior deck on Fridays or ice cream and even the new tradition that’s this year with the social-emotional wellness dogs that come in, all the little things add up and make just such a huge difference in my joy and wellbeing and hopefully everyone else’s as well.
Kaitlyn Gonzalez, senior

Even just relating it back to kindness, you’re not doing kind acts because you want to be recognized or because you want to get something out of it. You’re doing it out of the goodness of your heart and because you know that it’s the right thing to do. That’s the only way to a fulfilling and happy life, is to do something because you’re really doing it out of pure desire to make the world a better place.
Mia Bouyoucef, junior

During this holiday season, when so many things in our world are not positive or encouraging, we hope you find similar stories of kindness in your school community. The promising words of these young people give us all hope for a brighter tomorrow. So as we close out this semester and end 2023, let’s all remember, “It’s never too late to be kind.”

Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 – 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who “believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it.” The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student’s sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.