DOVER, N.H. (AP) - If kindness is contagious, then all of Dover Middle School is set to catch a case of 12-year-old Jack Wagoner.
The seventh grader received special recognition this summer after being nominated by school staff for the “Nice Catch - Celebrating Kind Kids” initiative, hosted by Northeast Credit Union. In August, Wagoner learned he’d been named a winner among peers from Maine and New Hampshire.
The initiative seeks to recognize youth who “consistently exhibit acts of kindness, empathy and overall helpfulness to make their communities a better and brighter place.” Winners are then honored at New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Portland Sea Dogs games, where they throw out the first pitch.
“It’s important that everybody is treated equally,” Wagoner said. “I just treat everybody the same no matter what.”
Wagoner enjoys baseball, soccer and basketball. In school, his favorite subject is math. A fun fact - for 1,234 consecutive days, he has worn Philadelphia Phillies gear. It was a commitment he made almost four years ago.
DMS guidance counselor Meredith Vail said Wagoner was recommended for recognition by several staff members. He’s known for helping fellow students in class, making peace at recess and caring about “the whole,” not just certain individuals.
“In his fifth-grade year, we had a lot of students where English wasn’t their first language,” Vail said. “Jack was just helping out naturally, so I came up with the idea of partnering up kids, and Jack was the one who inspired that. He would help out if kids seemed to be struggling or needed extra help.”
Vail said Wagoner doesn’t even realize he’s kind; “it’s just who he is.”
“In middle school, a lot of kids struggle with figuring out who they are and how to fit in, and sometimes lose themselves in that,” she said. “So it’s really nice when you find somebody that is genuinely kind and respectful, and doing the right thing.”
Wagoner was in his element attending the Fisher Cats game on Aug. 11, where he received “VIP” treatment and was accompanied by “teachers, a ton of friends, my grandma, my parents.”
“I want to keep doing what I’m doing,” Wagoner said. “I hope everybody in our community should have the same goals, to be kind.”
Wagoner’s mom, Annie Wagoner, said she “immediately teared up” when she learned her son has been selected for the honor.
“I wasn’t surprised because it’s just who Jack’s been since the day he arrived in this world,” she said. “I’m constantly blown away by him and his sister and their awareness of others, and compassion, and ability to feel empathy. I’m just so filled with pride that it’s hard to put words to.”
DMS Dean of Students Lindsay Dube, who advises the Student Council on which Wagoner serves, said he’s “very much aware of every individual and different groups of students, and what effects things would have on them.”
“He’s a kid where if you go into the classroom, he stands out,” Dube said. “Always trying to make peace, always looking for everybody to get along. The accumulation of small things.”
Vail added, “Status doesn’t mean anything to him. He sees the good in everybody. Literally everybody.”
Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat, http://www.fosters.com
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