Fontbonne students start ‘Pay it Forward’ service project

Combining the lessons of a pope with the message of a Hollywood movie, juniors at Fontbonne Hall Academy have started a unique community service project. The goal of the endeavor, called Project One4All, in reference to 2014, the year the girls will graduate, is to promote positive change in people’s lives by performing charitable deeds, according to school officials.

Juniors at the girls’ Catholic High school in Bay Ridge studied Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris in religion class this semester. Fifty years ago, the pope issued a paper in which he famously urged Catholics to serve humanity and work for world peace. The students were also inspired by “Pay it Forward,” a 2000 movie starring Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey, and Haley Joel Osment in which a child performs good deeds or his fellow citizens and starts a new social awareness movement.

The idea of "Pay It Forward" is that a person who is a recipent of a good deed doesn't pay back the person doing them the favor, but instead pays it forward by performing a good deed for the next person.

Led by their teacher Donna Russo, 123 juniors are taking part in the project. The girls are using social media and networking to promote their project's cause and are seeking to prove that small acts of kindness can create great change in the lives of others.

In their mission statement, the girls wrote of their belief that “an intrinsic understanding of social justice and peace comes from an awareness of global issues and a desire to create a better world.”

Through small acts of kindness, students said they are ready to demonstrate that they can make a difference in the lives of others.

The students are using bracelets as symbols of the project. Earlier this month, 400 blue and gray bracelets were delivered to the Fontbonne campus on Shore Road and 99th Street. Each student was given 3 bracelets to inaugurate the project. One bracelet is a memento for students to keep. The second is to give to someone else to promote awareness for the project, and the third is to be given to someone “caught in the act of being good,” while performing an act of kindness or charity.

For more information, visit the project’s website at The students can also be reached via email at [email protected].