After the contentious election cycle of 2016, many Americans are trying to find ways to combat the hate and negativity that dominates social media and funnel that energy elsewhere. One Elon University alumna is facilitating this by creating High-Five to Kindness — a social media campaign aimed at encouraging acts of kindness and volunteering.

Katie Perez ’15 graduated from Elon as an accounting major and is now working at Duke Energy as part of a finance rotation program. Growing up in the suburbs of Charlotte, Perez was unaware of the disparities that existed just outside her backyard.

“I grew up in South Charlotte where everyone grew up middle to upper middle class, so I never thought of Charlotte as a city of people struggling economically,” she said. “[Now] living and working uptown I see people on the street everyday and I saw them every day for a year and didn’t really do anything about it.”

Nov. 8 was a turning point for Perez. After watching the election unfold, she ventured outside with dozens of homemade sandwiches and hand warmers to pass out to the homeless people of Charlotte.

“I would look people in the eye and talk to them. I would ask them their name and where they were from,” Perez said. “[I was] building relationships [with them] because by being ignored all the time — they already feel inadequate. People just walk by them, making them feel more invisible. That night a man cried in front of me, and held my hand, and I cried.”

That was Perez’s first “act of kindness” as part of High-Five To Kindness. After the election, Perez became tired of seeing her news feeds flooded with hate and division. Though High-Five to Kindness is the result of a culmination of many events and emotions, the election was a definite breaking point.

“I kind of got to the point where I was like, ‘Why do I have a right to complain about society when all I’m doing is sitting on my bed or couch crying or upset about it — I’m not active, I’m not doing anything about it,’” she said. “I told myself that I needed to do something, but I didn’t want it to just be about me.”

Starting a movement

She was inspired by the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” which went viral a few years ago and raised awareness about ALS. Though High-Five to Kindness is not specific to one cause or organization, Perez hopes it inspires not one action but also a lifestyle of giving.

“That is what I am going for,” she said. “A ripple effect of people posting things that are inspiring and positive and you see other people doing great things and that makes you want to do great things as well.”

Perez acknowledges that stepping outside your comfort zone can be scary, but hopes High-Five To Kindness helps combat that fear.

“You don’t need to have a background in human services or be an expert in the field of nonprofits,” Perez said. “I’m an accounting major — I’m learning each day. It really shows that anyone can make a difference you really have to put yourself in a vulnerable state and take that first step. I have been inspired to do more and more each time I do something.”

High-Five to Kindness asks participants to perform any act of kindness and write the act on their hands and post a photo to social media with the hashtag #highfivetokindness and then nominate a friend to do the same. Perez said it is not a nonprofit or organization itself, but rather an initiator that promotes nonprofits.

While at Elon, Perez was involved in various organizations but admits she wishes she had done more in her four years.

“Elon taught me a lot,” Perez said. “There are so many genuine, kindhearted people at Elon and so many people that aren’t afraid to speak out about what they care about and I think that’s really important. But, we need to do more than speak out — we need to act.”

Growing the cause

Senior Emma Warman met Perez when she was a freshman at Elon. They were involved in the same sorority, so Warman was quick to support Perez in her recent endeavor.

“So far I’ve made one official post with the hashtag and high five after a morning I spent volunteering at a church I go to in Burlington,” Warman said. “I figured if I was already volunteering, I might as well give back to her cause and encourage more people to volunteer.”

Burlington’s First Presbyterian Church has started an initiative called “Furniture Ministry.” Volunteers take recycled furniture and bring it to families in the community who qualify to have it delivered to their homes. Some of the furniture comes from old dorm rooms and the recent renovations in Long.

Warman was inspired after she saw a post from another friend of Perez who brought cookies to her local fire stations during the holidays with the sentiment that they were the people who made the holidays happen.

“I thought that was so awesome,” Warman said. “[I] said, ‘Why haven’t I been doing something like that?’ I hoped that I could then motivate someone else to do something.”

Perez hopes that the Elon student body can help High-Five to Kindness takeoff.

“That would be so special to me because Elon has such a special place in my heart,” Perez said. “I want Elon students to realize how incredibly blessed they are with the resources [they] have. I know people get so caught up in the bubble and material things and I just don’t want that to be the priority.”

Warman thinks the best way for this to happen is to get organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, who are already doing service work, involved. If one person in that organization shares the hashtag, it’s likely others will catch on.

Perez has been doing all the groundwork by herself since the end of November when High Five for Kindness started. She runs all of the social media platforms as well as maintaining the website,, and the blog connected to the site.

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“I think the first step is to be aware of that bubble and then once you’re aware of it you have to do something about it,” Perez said. “One man I spoke to on the street said if he had the capacity I did, he would get everyone off the street. He would do everything in his power to get people off the street. He said, ‘You have the capacity to really accomplish anything you’re passionate about.’ You just have to be brave enough to do that.”