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Let’s Be Kind teams up with Buenas Coffee to congratulate class of 2020

Rebekah Robeck, right, a sophomore at Costa Mesa High School, hands out "Let's Be Kind" T-shirts to a group of eighth-graders from Costa Mesa Middle School at Buenas Coffee on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A three-year stint in El Salvador left an indelible mark on young Rebekah Robeck.

While serving as a missionary with her immediate family, Rebekah experienced a degree of kindness she was not soon to forget.

When Rebekah was exposed to bullying at Costa Mesa Middle School, her mom, Cristina, would lend a sympathetic ear. Then one day, she asked her daughter what she was going to do about it.

Rebekah decided that she would counter with kindness. The first step was to deliver pizzas with little signs that said, “Let’s be kind to each other.”

“That’s what we did this one time, and then it went from that to wanting to do more,” Rebekah said. “My mom, she was a graphic designer, and she created the logo, and I was like, ‘Hey, why don’t we just put this on a bunch of T-shirts for my middle school and just pass them out to everybody?’”

Rebekah was keen to ensure that school would be an inclusive environment where all students in attendance would feel safe and welcome. She likened school to a second home, noting that students attend for their education 10 months out of the year.

“Part of it was just wanting to make sure that these students felt welcome and they felt loved, even though sometimes love is a hard word to comprehend and just to tell people,” she said. “I feel like kindness is just a little bit of a step under there, and kindness is just part of our everyday lives, to be honest, so it’s a lot easier to understand.”

Rebekah Robeck, 16, right, a student at Costa Mesa High School, goes over the different sizes with Sedyi Bierman, 14, an eighth-grader at Costa Mesa Middle School as she picks up a free "Let's Be Kind" T-shirt at Buenas Coffee on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A 16-year-old finishing up her sophomore year at Costa Mesa High School, Rebekah has gained many fans. There were 14 schools prepared to hold their own “Let’s Be Kind Day” this year, but the events were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting school shutdowns.

The death toll from the disease caused by the pandemic coronavirus is now 145 overall, while estimated total recoveries increased to 2,358.

Let’s Be Kind has grown into a nonprofit organization, which teamed up with Buenas Coffee in Costa Mesa on Friday to do more good works for the community.

Buenas Coffee opened its doors to the group, allowing Rebekah and her mom to distribute “Let’s Be Kind” T-shirts to seniors graduating from Costa Mesa High and eighth-graders being promoted from Costa Mesa Middle School.

“Our presence in the community, that’s something that we really value,” said Beto Castillo, a co-founder of the local coffee shop. “It’s interesting because while presence is our physical space in the community of Costa Mesa, [it is] also what kind of tone we set, inclusivity.

“We want to be respectful. We want to be kind. We want to be generous. We just want to embody that.”

Castillo added that Rebekah’s values of spreading kindness and inclusivity were in line with what they hope to emulate.

Doan Do, 43, a Costa Mesa resident, wanted to help bring the “Let’s Be Kind” movement to Kaiser Elementary School and several other schools.

“What Rebekah has accomplished at the age of 16, or 15 at the time, when I met her, it’s unbelievable,” Do said. “This girl is going to change the world. These are the role models that these kids need to look up to.”

Costa Mesa Middle School eighth-graders, left to right, Wilbur Hancock, 15, Edward Wheelan, 14, Kennedy Walker, 13, Kaitlyn Yagerlener, 14, and Evelynn Ward, 13, pose together for Sarah Yagerlener, far left, wearing their "Let's Be Kind" T-shirts at Buenas Coffee on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Those who stopped by the event were appreciative of the effort and recognition.

“I wasn’t even really interested in the shirt all that much, but it was the thought that counts,” said Justice Sarte, who plans to study education science at UC Irvine. “I wanted to come and support that because I think it’s really nice when people do anything for us seniors to try to recognize our accomplishments in this hard time.”

Malia Tufuga, who has signed with the Stanford women’s volleyball program, also wanted to support Rebekah’s cause.

“It’s refreshing to see a campaign like hers that promotes good mental health and positivity, especially during a time like this where students, especially promoting eighth-graders and graduating seniors, are experiencing so many disappointments,” Tufuga said.

Rebekah’s campaign has been campus-centric to this point, but her mom believes that the message is spread beyond schools.

“We’ve heard parents talk about it at home,” Cristina Robeck said. “We know that when you begin to transform a kid’s experience at school through kindness, that’s going to translate to the home, and the home is going to translate into the neighbors, and the neighborhood is going to translate it to the city.

“Although we’re focused primarily on school campuses and that’s where we will stay, we want to be able to empower students to do something for good.”

Rebekah Robeck, 16, far right, her mother, Cristina, center, and grandmother, Rose Lopez, talk to parent Sarah Yagerlener, far left, at Buenas Coffee on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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