Student Spreads Kindness and Unity, One Rock at a Time

March 6, 2017

Can a handful of rocks unite a college? For St. John Fisher College student Alexa Zappia, the answer is yes.


Through a collection of garden rocks, some paint and sealer, and a message of kindness and acceptance, Zappia is on a mission to fight the growing sense of intolerance she sees in the world.  With that in mind, she developed Rocks of Unity, a project she’s taken to community centers, elementary schools, and now, Fisher.

Alexa Zappia

“As I reflected on the nation's current state, I have realized that in a world filled with so much intolerance of others based on our differences, we must respond by affirming strength in diversity through kindness and acceptance, and rejecting intolerance starts with our youth,” said Zappia.

The execution of Rocks of Unity is simple, but powerful. Drawing on lessons learned as an education major at Fisher, Zappia created a small group exercise, leading students through a discussion of their differences, but recognition that those differences don’t make a person superior or inferior to another. She then has students paint a garden rock in a way that represents themselves. The rocks are made into a garden or display.

Zappia created a rock garden at Congregation Shir Shalom in Buffalo, New York.

“When all the garden stones are arranged together, it is beyond heartwarming to see the diversity among students and how natural it is for them to embrace each other while understanding their differences,” she said.

To date, she has brought the project to more than 300 students in Buffalo and Rochester, and in March, will engage Fisher’s more than 2,600 undergraduates in the initiative. Working with the Office of Campus Life, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education, and a host of student organizations, Zappia aims to create a permanent Rocks of Unity display on campus.

Zappia, in collaboration with several campus groups, is hosting a rock decorating party from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday March 21, in the Campus Center Mainstage. Students, faculty, and staff will have a second chance to contribute to the project from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday March 23, in the Campus Center Atrium.

Students created rocks for their garden at Congregation Shir Shalom in Buffalo, New York.

Next, professors and students will lay the rocks on concrete panels, which will hopefully be installed outside of Lavery Library. The installation will be unveiled in a dedication ceremony planned for 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11.

“This movement enables all members of the Fisher family to leave their permanent marking on our campus in a powerful way,” said Zappia. “Wherever our different paths may lead post-graduation, Fisher will always be an institution based on the principles of kindness, acceptance, and strength in diversity that will always welcome us home.”

Track the project’s progress on social media following the hashtag #RocksofUnity.