Manteno High School students

Manteno High School students run onto the football field at Herscher High School during Herscher's homecoming activities on Friday.

So why did two busloads of Manteno High School students appear at Herscher High School's homecoming celebration Friday afternoon?

It was a big secret right up to the moment Manteno's students rushed out onto the football field cheering. Even Herscher's teachers didn't know they were coming.

"They won't just think we're creepy," said Lauren Werner, 17, a Manteno senior, just before rushing out onto the football field.

The purpose was to spread the "pay it forward" movement to Herscher, a positive message about helping others and doing random acts of kindness. It started with Manteno's Interact Club last year and took off like wildfire.

Today, students in Manteno will pay for strangers' meals at McDonald's, clean up neighbor's yards and even enlist the football team to clean up homes "decorated" with toilet paper. Roger Schnitzler, Manteno High School's principal, credits the positivity to recent successes in athletics and academics at the school.

But nearly the entire Herscher High School student body raised their hands Friday to admit they were dumbfounded about what was happening to them. The only hint was Manteno students chanting, "you've been stamped, you've been stamped."

Leegan Boudreau, 18, Manteno's Interact Club president, told Herscher students it was normal to feel disoriented.

"When this happened to us, we were called down to the gym over the loudspeaker and music was blaring, teachers were dancing and we were like, 'what the heck?'" Boudreu said. "But think about it. You're the first of 760 schools in Illinois to be stamped. We want you to pick another school to stamp."

Being "stamped" makes the school responsible for taking to heart the idea that random acts of kindness will spread everywhere. Manteno's ambition is for the movement to reach every school district in Illinois, along with Herscher's help.

As a reminder, they handed out bracelets to the Herscher students with a reminder they have indeed been stamped.

"It takes a lot of guts to come out and share with us," George McKenna, Herscher's principal, told his students. They received the message well, applauding Manteno at times and shouting back. Anthony Galeaz, 15, a sophomore, even engaged in a very public one-on-one with those holding the microphone.

"I love it, man. Peace, love and positivity. It's a chain reaction," Galeaz said. "These people deserve to hear it."

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