A chain reaction of kindness, compassion
Everyone’s life has meaning and purpose. What if people replaced acts of violence, bullying and negativity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion?
Somerset Middle School Principal Sara Eichten is certain Rachel’s Challenge will inspire students, staff and the community to do exactly that.
Rachel’s Challenge, according the website rachelschallenge.org, “is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe, connected school environments where learning and teaching are maximized.”
The Rachel’s Challenge program is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first victim killed in the Columbine School shooting in Colorado in 1999.
“The message is very powerful,” Eichten said. “The legacy she left behind is amazing. The positive way she lived her life, the power of her message, standing up for those with no voice, we felt it was worthwhile to bring to our schools.”
Problems in schools the program focuses on include bullying, student isolation, teen suicide, discrimination, school violence and increased disciplinary actions.
According to the website, “We motivate and equip students to start and sustain a chain reaction of kindness and compassion that transforms schools and communities.”
A few weeks after Scott was killed, her father, Darrell Scott, spoke to a Congressional House Judiciary Committee about school violence issues. Shortly thereafter, he founded Rachel’s Challenge as a bullying and violence abatement program. The presentations are given in schools and communities by members of her family and other speakers, using video footage of the Columbine High School massacre and its aftermath, combined with Scott’s drawings and writings.
“Rachel left a legacy of reaching out to those who were different, who were picked on by others, or who were new at her school. Shortly before her death she wrote, ‘I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go,’” according to the website.
Programs will be presented at each of the three schools on Thursday, Oct. 30, with a different focus in each one, appropriate for students of each grade level, Eichten said.
The elementary program will be held 8:20-9 a.m. and will deliver the message of using kind words and doing kind things, accepting and including others, choosing to be a positive influence, setting goals and keeping a journal, and continuing a kindness chain reaction.
This program will not show video footage of Columbine as it wouldn’t be appropriate for the young students, Eichten said.
The fifth- and sixth-graders will see Rachel’s Story from 1:45-2:45 p.m. This age-level program focuses on dreaming big and believing in yourself, being kind to others, practicing positive gossip, showing appreciation, and being the answer.
Grades 7-12 will see Rachel’s Challenge, from 12:15-1:15 p.m. This presentation will include video footage from Columbine, as well as the elements presented in the other programs.
Students at each of the three schools will have the chance to sign the Rachel’s Challenge banner, and take the pledge to think about their actions, use kind words, dream big and start their own chain reactions of kindness.
The community is invited to the Rachel’s Challenge presentation from 7-8 p.m. in the high school multi-purpose room. The entire project is being funded by an AODA grant and money from the district’s building budgets.
According to a press release, 21 million people have received Scott’s message around the world; at least eight school shootings have been prevented; and more than 500 suicides have been avoided.
For more information, visit rachelschallenge.org or email Eichten at seichten@somerset,k12.wi.us.