Students Teach & Learn How to Inspire Compassion

MESA, Ariz. – Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School partnered with Mesa Community College’s (MCC) chapter of the Psi Beta National Honor Society to present components of the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP), a national program designed to inspire compassion.

More than 50 fifth-grade students, members of Colina’s Aerospace Club, received an orientation of the Bystander Effect, one element of the HIP, which reinforces the engagement process and helps develop a mindset that encourages willingness to act on behalf of others or in the defense of fairness and equality. Students were exposed to situations where people were in trouble or injured and no one came to help. “Club members not only learn about aerospace but search and rescue and first aid. I thought the HIP would be perfect for them as they have the skills, they just need to know what may prevent them from taking action,” explained Mr. Arlen Sykes, a teacher at Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School. “The program effectively demonstrated to students how one ‘right’ choice by one person can dramatically change a situation, someone’s life and our society as a whole – developing what the HIP calls a civic virtue of heroic action.”

“Social psychology tells us that, due to diffusion of responsibility, pluralistic ignorance, and fear of looking foolish, the more people there are around when someone needs help, the less likely it is that anyone will respond,” said Ann Ewing, MCC residential psychology faculty. MCC Psi Beta chapter members, led by student leader Heather Smyth, presented on the Bystander Effect to hundreds on campus to MCC clubs and classes, and in the community to elementary and high school students.

“Our goal was and is to encourage and inspire people to compassionately reach out to their fellow man in a safe and effective way. There are many everyday situations like illness, accidents and bullying, where one person can make a difference. Psi Beta’s HIP program is just one of the ways we can make a positive change in our community. Education really is key. HIP is also an opportunity for our members to gain experience in research and public presentation. It’s a winning situation for everyone,” said Heather Smyth, one of the leaders of MCC’s 2013-14 Psi Beta chapter.

MCC regularly provides opportunities for its students to conduct research and present findings in the community.

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Dawn Zimmer (480) 461-7892,
Sally Mesarosh (480) 892-1393,

About Mesa Community College
Mesa Community College provides outstanding transfer and career and technical programs, workforce development, and life-long learning opportunities to residents of the East Valley area of Phoenix, Arizona. MCC excels in teaching, learning and empowering its more than 40,000 students who attend annually to succeed in a local and global community.  Mesa Community College is one of ten colleges that comprise the Maricopa County Community College District. For additional information please visit

About MCC Psi Beta Chapter
MCC Psi Beta is one several chapters located at over 100 accredited two-year colleges. Psi Beta is an affiliate of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Psychological Society (APS), and is the first two-year society to become a member of the Association of College Honor Societies. The mission of MCC’s award winning Psi Beta chapter is to encourage, impassion, and note students' passion for psychology and scholar skills.

About the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP)
The Heroic Imagination Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that teaches people how to take effective action in challenging situations. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, The Heroic Imagination Project was founded by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. HIP translates the extensive research findings of social psychology and related fields into meaningful insights and tools individuals can use in their everyday lives to transform negative situations and create positive change. Learn more online at

The Maricopa County Community College District is an EEO/AA institution and an
equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.

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Publication Date: 
Thursday, May 29, 2014