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Nursing Students Recognize Random Acts of Kindness

Wooden coins used to document good deeds.

Kristine Goodrich, Mankato Free Press, 5-3-2017

MANKATO — Introductory nursing students at Minnesota State University, Mankato were each issued a wooden coin and a simple challenge.

Give the token to someone they witness demonstrating an act of kindness, nursing instructors Becky Gerdes and Norma Krumwiede directed. Students then went online and wrote about who they shared their coin with and why.

Instructions on the coin invite the recipient to also go online and share a reaction and to pass along the coin to another do-gooder. Each coin has a unique number allowing it to be tracked.

The nursing students participated in the Minnesota Nickel Project created by Moorhead artist Su Legatt.

The goal, Legatt said, is to provide “a simple reward to a kind individual while challenging the original holder to examine, seek out, and determine whether or not an act is kind and deserving of a token.”

Gerdes said she hopes her students “realize how kind gestures may often go unnoticed and unappreciated.”

A few Minnesota State Mankato students gave their coins to strangers who showed them kindness. One nickel went to a woman who returned a student's lost wallet, for example. Another went to a woman who helped a student jump start a car with a dead battery.

Most students gave their nickel after witnessing a random act of kindness. Max McDonald recognized another young man he spotted in a store parking lot helping an elderly man load his groceries into his vehicle. Xue Lor saluted the workers of a local Chipotle Mexican Grill who chipped in to pay the remainder of the bill for a customer who was a few dollars short.

Other students said after a few weeks struggling to decide to whom to give their nickel they gave it to someone they knew. Megan Krentz gave hers as a thank you to a new friend who bought her lunch. Natalie Courteau gave her coin to her boyfriend after he stopped to give a ride to two students who were walking in the rain.

Another coin went to a giver's co-worker who helped a customer with a disability. “It is nice being noticed for your kindness in a world where everyone only seems to care about money or looks instead of being sympathetic to others,” the co-worker wrote about receiving the nickel.

A few coins made it beyond Mankato. Alexandra Carlson saved her token for her spring break trip to San Francisco. She gave it to a woman she witnessed give food to a homeless person.

Only a few coins have so far made it to multiple recipients. One was given to an event volunteer at St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center who re-gifted it to a volunteer who cleans wheelchairs at the Mankato hospital.

“It was nice to get some recognition because sometimes I wonder if I should keep doing this or just focus on my school work,” the hospital worker wrote on the Minnesota Nickel project blog. “After receiving the coin I knew that this is something I need to keep doing.”

Instead of taking a final, Nursing 101 students gathered Tuesday to participate in another of Legatt's initiatives called The Dish Project. It was a potluck with a twist that they bring a dish that celebrated their heritage.

After they enjoyed fare ranging from tater tot hot dish to Nigerian fried rice, they discussed Minnesota culture. The conversation including whether the state deserves its “Minnesota nice” label. The consensus was yes, although some said the niceness is a byproduct of our passive aggressive tendencies.

Students also reflected on the Nickel Project. Several students said it made them more observant of the acts of kindness occurring around them and appreciative of those shared with them.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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