We could learn a thing or two — or ten — from elementary schoolers.
Like how a small action can incite BIG change.
Nine-year-old Bellen Woodard grew a movement from her school in Northern Virginia to a national project over a simple exchange of crayon colors in her third-grade class.
When she witnessed classmates repeatedly refer to the peach-colored crayon when asking for the “skin-color,” Bellen had a conversation with her mom, formed her own solution,and decided to create a shift of language — and thinking.
“It wasn’t comfortable for her but she decided that she would ask her peers to say the color they wanted,” says Bellen’s mom Tosha. “She did and then her teacher started using the same language she did. Eventually in that same classroom, speaking that truth, the single skin-color-crayon-standard just phased out — the entire class would say the same thing. Eventually no one perceived that one color as the skin color. That whole energy just started to permeate in the whole building, and everyone was just far more conscious of that. The conversation that Bellen and I had was if this can happen here, why can’t it happen anywhere?”
So Bellen began to create, build, and donate special art kits called Palette Packets that include multicultural crayons and custom sketchpads in order to raise awareness and support kids’ creativity.
As Bellen’s philanthropy gained momentum, Bellen connected with Crayola, who provided donations of multicultural crayon packs.
Bellen’s More Than Peach Project nonprofit was born, beginning with an investment of Bellen’s own money, an official meeting with her principal, and a school-wide drive — a one-off event that Bellen thought would end there. But knowledge of and interest in the project grew, and both Bellen and Tosha knew there was bigger potential to give.
Tosha made social media pages for the More Than Peach Project and Bellen began making and delivering packets to other schools in the area — then on to shipping them worldwide.
“She’s got amazing support, and now the support is coming from around the world,” says Tosha.
Her local Office Depot donated packing and printing supplies Bellen’s More Than Peach project needed to create packets, and educators nationwide began applauding Bellen’s efforts.
“It was like she was Santa Claus almost, when she would go out, everyone would look forward to her visits,” Tosha says.” There was such energy around the movement and support came from around the region.”
Schools all around Virginia were investing in Bellen’s idea and More Than Peach started gaining national attention and press (like the Today Show and People magazine!) Her story has even become a permanent part of the Virginia History of Museum and Culture.
“It’s going to be in the museum forever, and other people can see that, when I’m older, it can inspire other people to do stuff like that,” Bellen says.
In addition to running More Than Peach, Bellen enjoys dancing, drawing, playing, being creative, and modeling (you can spot Bellen in these digital Target ads!) She also participates in a group she started called the Peer Palette, a girls volunteering group. She has also donated hundreds of dollars worth of packets to local senior centers during COVID-19, and is working on additional More Than Peach projects, like her own line of multicultural crayons and the More than Peach classroom curriculum, now available for pre-order. And major corporations are now reaching out to serve as sponsors to Bellen’s project.
“Even though I’ve always known Bellen to be this crazy critical thinker, in spite of her being younger,” Tosha says. “She’s always had this intuitive, this high-level thinking that has always impressed me. So I am very proud of her, but I’m also proud that she’s been so committed to [More Than Peach] and that she’s shown so much empathy in her relationships and her interactions with others, and that has absolutely inspired me. What inspires us all the most are the many emails that come through from people, even much older people, giving us their accounts of their experiences. That is probably the biggest motivator.”
Bellen’s More Than Peach Project is a testament to the power of small beginnings, fiercely resisting the idea that we’re too small, too young, or too inconsequential to make a difference.
“If you want something to change, you should be the change.”
To learn more about Bellen and the More Than Peach Project, or to donate, visit the site here.