For her senior project, Rocio Sosa Mercado knew that she wanted to give back to her community and to express her creativity – but she couldn’t figure out how. One day, she came across a year-old Index-Tribune article written about local resident Ann Clark’s Love Hope Joy Project.

Since mid-2016, Clark has purchased, decorated and placed more than 1,200 decorated stones throughout the downtown – her sole motive being to uplift the hearts of those who find them.

Rocio said that as soon as she read about the project, she thought, “This is it! I knew I wanted to create those colorful stones and brighten people’s day too.”

Clark was excited to serve as her mentor and to advise Rocio throughout her project.

“Spreading loving messages by distributing these stones around town makes me feel very happy,” said Rocio. “I know that people have tough days and knowing that these motivational stones can help brighten someones day is heartwarming to me. I love to see finders post their reactions about the stone they came across because I know that I am making a positive change in someone’s day.”

It was Rocio’s idea to write motivational messages in Spanish and distribute them around Boyes Hot Springs. She also plans to visit Sassarini Elementary School and explain the importance of motivation and spreading joy to others to the fifth grade classes.

Her research project tackles the importance of motivation at an early age.

“Teenagers nowadays are fighting apathy because they were unable to build their self-encouragement at an early age,” said Rocio. “Teaching self-motivation in school is imperative because it helps the student reach their objectives successfully.” She added that because children will undoubtedly be susceptible to larger obstacles in the future, teaching them how motivation affects their actions should be practiced in all primary schools.

“Elementary students should be introduced to the importance of motivation at an early age considering that motivation helps carry out a positive lifestyle, facilitates student learning, and psychologically benefits the student,” she added.