FENTON, Mo. — As the sunrise paints the sky pink, red-eyed kids start arriving to begin their day at Rockwood South Middle School.
When you're in sixth, seventh and eighth grade and up so early, every morning may not be good. But here, there is good in every morning.
"I honestly have never seen anything like it," Principal Laurie Birkenmeier said.
Sixth-grader Xavier Marshall welcomes every student with a "hello" and a high five.
"It helps everyone else get to the morning without having stress," he said.
This happens every day, rain or shine. And though the first bell rings at 7:47 a.m., Xavier said there's always time to be kind.
"Some kids high five him, some kids don't," Birkenmeier said. "So, it takes commitment. It takes resilience. It takes truly wanting to make a difference."
It all started on the first day of school when Xavier started holding the door open for his classmates. Then, the kids in the theater department decided to help him out.
"We made these little wedges in the theater department so they could keep the doors open. So we made several of these they could use," theater teacher Troy Schnider said.
That allowed Xavier to move to the front of the doors. Now other kids have joined the welcome party.
"You know how they said 'One act of kindness can spark another'? That's kind of what it was," said sixth-grader Ridwan Osman.
By all accounts, this is how Xavier has always been.
"A nice, kind, brave, tall, guy," said sixth-grader Jackson Stratton with a laugh.
For someone so friendly, he's usually pretty quiet. He loves to spend time playing video games. Except of course, when he's doing his math homework.
"Math is really a fun challenge," Xavier said, "and it helps get my brain thinking."
But there's another thing you should know about Xavier. It takes him longer to get to and from school than most of the kids here.
He's a voluntary transfer student, which means he has an hour bus ride to and from the city every day.
The end of the school day is much like the start of it.
As kids head home, Xavier puts a little "good" in their good-bye.
"He is certainly the kid that leads by example," Birkenmeier said. "What might seem as a small action can make an absolutely tremendous difference."
Ask him and he'll tell you, he hopes to be doing this until his highschool graduation.
Sometimes, students can be our best teachers. Xavier Marshall, giving us all a lesson in kindness.