Graduate Profile

How you treat other people matters

By Debbie Musser

Brooklyn Park native Bryan Skavnak attended St. Alphonsus Catholic School from first to eighth grade. The St. John’s University graduate went on to become a PGA golf professional and has taught golf for the past 22 years.

Skavnak is also the founder of Be the Nice Kid, which spreads positivity and inspiration to students, parents and teachers through school visits, classroom posters and merchandise.

“I share some pretty simple concepts: be kind, use your manners, have fun, do the right thing,” Skavnak said. “What I teach during golf lessons is the same. I tell my students I’d rather have them be a great person than a great golfer.”

Last spring, Skavnak returned to St. Alphonsus, kicking the day off with a lively all-school assembly, visiting classrooms and spending time with students during lunch and recess. 

He shared personal stories about being scared, staying positive and encouraging others.

“We often make assumptions about people, and most of the time they’re not right,” Skavnak told the students. “It’s really easy to point out differences, but if everybody looked the same or did the same thing, it would be boring!”

In a sixth grade classroom, Skavnak had students form small groups to find something they have in common. The connections included liking Chinese food, enjoying the same video games and all being on the shy side.

“This is life — relationships, stories, connections, memories, people,” Skavnak said. “People matter, and how you treat other people matters.”

These basic truths echo foundational elements of the Catholic faith, shown to Skavnak in his own childhood, both at home and at St. Alphonsus. Teachers, staff and parents displayed how to live their faith by treating others with kindness, he said.

“We were taught not just by telling, but by example,” he said.

Being back at St. Alphonsus brought back many positive memories for Skavnak. “I remember the Italian dunkers and pizza burgers were the best,” he said. “And I remember every one of my teachers’ names. They all had a big impact on me.”

That included art teacher Bethany Collins, who remembered Skavnak as a tall, quiet and respectful student. She appreciated his visit to his alma mater and the important message he shared. 

“Bryan’s message was a great reminder to our students that everyone deserves kindness, and we can all be kind in many simple ways,” Collins said. “Sometimes the smaller gestures can have the most impact on others and ourselves.”

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