Sninjas spread positivity with small acts of kindness


Brianna Burgert, senior in mechanical engineering, writes “Smile, show the world how beautiful you really are,” on a bathroom mirror on campus. The Sninja Club regularly goes on smile missions to help others feel good about themselves.

Morgan Kelly

Karate chopping one frown at a time, the Sninjas are on a mission: to put a smile on the faces of ISU students.

The Sninjas, or Smile Ninjas, have recently become a funded club on campus, though they’ve been around for two or three years already.

Their goal is to spread positivity through anonymity and to get others outside of their “bubbles” to do something nice for someone else, said Santiago Guerrero, treasurer of the Sninjas and a sophomore in elementary education.

The club has been underground and unfunded for the past two to three years. It was small in size then, as it is now, Guerreo said. Though the website says there are 80 total members, only four to five members show up to each meeting, which are held 5:30 p.m. Thursdays in the Design building, room 0101.

Brianna Burgert, official club president and senior in mechanical engineering, said she’s trying very hard to bring enthusiasm back to the Sninja Club. So far, she said, they have doubled the number of people who come to meetings now with the help of flyers and word of mouth.

She’s also submitting paperwork for Sninjas to co-host ISU AfterDark on Nov. 7 to attract more students to join the club. 

“It’s always good to be able to smile,” Guerrero said.

“The great thing about [Sninja] is that it’s for everyone; everyone can be a sninja, anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone,” Burgert said.

Burgert said joining the club itself was a step outside her comfort zone.

“It took a lot of courage for me to come to the meetings and to say hi to people,” Burgert said. “That was terrifying. Even though everyone is a person, just like you and me.”

Now she’s the president and encourages anyone to join that are looking to make a difference and spread joy to others.

“I liked that they wanted to do nice things for people. That sounds fun,” said Kori Corrigan, a sophomore in open option.

“I’m shy but I wanted to meet new people and just let the walls fall down. It’s a welcoming group full of motivation to pay it forward,” Corrigan said. 

The group hangs flyers and ISU students pull the tabs when they see fit.

Swiftly, the sninjas spread smiles and positivity throughout campus undetected.

“Sninja Missions, that’s what we call them,” Burgert said.

A mission can be anything from saying hello or holding a door for a stranger–to having a flash mob and encouraging students to dance with them in the free speech space, such as what the group did last year.

“There was this one guy that showed up and he started to kind of limber up like he was going to dance with us,” Burgert said about the flash mob. “He did it for like two minutes, then he walked away. It was the cutest thing ever.”

Guerrero said those interactions are exactly what make their missions worthwhile. 

“Getting those reactions is what the club is all about, making others feel like they are seen on this campus,” Guerrero said. “It’s important to show others that you care, and they’re not alone.”

Burgert said the Sninja club is important to her core values. “It’s really about making people smile, self improvement, and being aware of those around you.”

This club is not the only one of it’s kind. Burget said that ISU Sninja Club was started because of a movement the creator heard of, while living in Minneapolis.

There is a need for that movement, Burget said. Everyone is disconnected.

“I don’t think it’s just Iowa State. I think it’s society and other campuses in general,” Burgert said. “You look around and everybody’s on their phone; everybody’s listening to music. They don’t really pay attention to what’s going on around them.”

Burget said she remembers a story her vice president told her last winter about a girl in the dining center who fell and spilled all of her things. He said that no one stopped to help. They all just parted and walked around her.

The vice president said this made her sad because “we shouldn’t ignore our neighbors when they need our help.”

“It’s important that we have this community and not just a bunch of people in the same area,” Guerrero said. 

The anonymity is rewarding on a personal level because he’s always liked helping others said Guerrero.

“A smile is when your body just can’t contain itself and it just has to smile,” Guerrero said.