March 2, 2024

Project KIND Propels UMW Alumna to Virginia’s Counselor of the Year

UMW alumna Sarah Ritchie ’14 will lead Virginia Kindness Week through the Virginia Department of Education during the second week of February 2024. Ritchie created Project KIND, a character education program helping students succeed in school and in life. Ritchie also was recognized as Virginia’s 2023 Elementary School Counselor of the Year. Brianna Rae Photography

UMW alumna Sarah Ritchie ’14 will lead Virginia Kindness Week through the Virginia Department of Education during the second week of February 2024. Ritchie created Project KIND, a character education program helping students succeed in school and in life. Ritchie also was recognized as Virginia’s 2023 Elementary School Counselor of the Year. Brianna Rae Photography

For University of Mary Washington alumna Sarah Ritchie ’14, everything starts with kindness.

As a counselor at King George Elementary School, she envisioned a kindness club, recruited student ambassadors and invited global guest speakers who inspire others. She figured that with each individual she could reach, the kindness campaign would grow in the school and in the community.

Project KIND (Kids Inspiring and Nurturing Development) now spans King George County Schools as a comprehensive character education program teaching skills that will help students succeed in school and in life. A hub for student services, after-school clubs, and the snack and food program, it promotes helpful and healthy connections with teachers, students and families. And it’s earning statewide attention.

In 2023, Ritchie was recognized as the division-wide Teacher of the Year from King George County and named Elementary School Counselor of the Year by the Virginia School Counselor Association (VSCA). The annual award recognizes an elementary or secondary school counselor who has made a positive impact in their school community.

“The Kindness Crew has a positive presence in the community, even being established for only a few years,” Ritchie said of the after-school group she runs in a recent article about the power of high fives. “The development of the Kindness Crew has allowed a strong school-wide and community relationship to bloom. I have been honored to start and lead the club, and this has been one of the proudest moments of my professional career.” Read more.