GRANTSVILLE — The SafeUT app was designed to help kids deal with crises in their lives at home and at school.
Students have been able to use the app to confidentially report bullying, a potential attacker at their school or a fellow student who is thinking about hurting themselves. They can submit tips or reach a counselor 24/7.
Now, students can also use the SafeUT app to report acts of kindness.
"It's contagious in a positive way," said Marianne Oborn, the Tooele County School District counseling and social services director. All schools in the district are engaged in the app and encourage students to use it.
Oborn is the district representative who gets all SafeUT tips that pertain to the district's schools.
"I get a text message every time a tip comes in," she said. She receives two or three tips every day, and more in the spring.
"We know from data that this is the time of year that we see more suicides and different things like that happen," she said.
Most of the tips are related to the issues weighing on teens: suicide, depression, anxiety, bullying, harassment. However, a couple of weeks ago, one of the SafeUT tips really surprised her.
"I had never received one like this before," Oborn said. "It was really cool because at the top of the tip," where it cites the category of type, "this one said kindness. So, right off the bat, I thought, 'Oh wow I didn't know they had added that to the list.'"
A student had recognized Grantsville High School Senior Nikole Titara for being kind.
"This is so amazing," said the counseling director. "It just made my day."
Nikole said being kind is just a part of who she is. "It honestly has come naturally," the senior said.
When Nikole was 6 years old, her father took his own life. That changed the way she interacted with people around her, in a positive way.
"Because of that grief, I don't want anybody else to go through that," she said.
When it comes to helping others, Nikole admits she doesn't always know what to say. But often, that doesn't matter.
"If somebody needs help, I'm there to talk, even if I don't know what to say, just listening definitely helps some," said Nikole.
Nikole isn't the only student inspiring classmates to spread their kindness around. Since the "kindness" category was added to the SafeUT app, there have been 85 similar tips statewide.
Last month, Lizzie Rawlings challenged students at Clarke N. Johnsen Junior High School in Tooele to commit random act of kindness following the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.Comment on this story
"I wanted kids to look outside of themselves, and immediately the atmosphere in our school improved," she said. "It was happier, and it felt more welcome."
Lizzie believes the students have altered the culture at the school for the benefit of all. "I know there are a lot of stresses at school," said the junior high student. "Even just a smile or someone to talk to can relieve that stress."
The counseling director agrees.
"If you've gone out of your way to help people, your mind is in a different place," said Oborn. It's on making Utah safer.