A powerful message; Rachel’s Challenge urges students to change the world
“Close your eyes and picture the people you love most in the world. Go to them in the next three days and tell them how much you love and care about them. Your hands are an extension of Rachel’s, continuing the chain reaction.”
These were the words spoken by Rachel’s Challenge presenter Peter DeAnello as an assembly drew to a close at Somerset High School on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Rachel’s Challenge, a national, nonprofit organization based on the life and writings of a student killed at Columbine in 1999 who was dedicated to showing compassion to others, presented four programs at Somerset public schools last week.
The program is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott, who was dedicated to starting a chain reaction of kindness in those around her. Problems in schools the program focuses on include bullying, student isolation, teen suicide, discrimination, school violence and increased disciplinary actions. Scott was the first student killed in the Columbine school massacre in 1999.
As Somerset high school and middle school students watched footage of Columbine and heard the words written by Scott in her diary, many were wiping tears away.
“Rachel's Challenge impacted me on a huge level,” said Somerset junior Kaylin Gamache. “I have changed my inner thoughts on others and am teaching myself not to prejudge. Just like Rachel I would love to touch the hearts of millions of people and start a chain reaction of kindness.”
Rachel’s Challenge asks students to help change the world by committing to five tasks:
- Get rid of prejudices and look for the best in others.
- Dream big, believing you can make a difference in the world.
- Choose positive influences. “Don’t let your character change color with your environment,” Scott wrote in her diary.
- Speak with kindness, as words have the power to hurt and heal.
- Tell your loved ones how you feel about them, because you never know which day will be your last.
“The presentation was a great reminder that you should never take anyone for granted,” said senior Heather Hartwick. “We need to reach out to other people by simply giving someone a compliment. Like she (Rachel) said, ‘A little kindness goes a long way.’"
The presentation shared how Scott’s kind words and deeds comforted a new student at her school who had just lost her mother in an accident, and another student who had planned to take his own life until Scott stood up to bullies one day on his behalf.
“I found that it really connected to students at our school, especially because a lot of them are currently dealing with the loss of a friend,” said senior Michael Raleigh. “A lot of people took a lot from it.”
Words from Scott’s diary urge people to never give up on being kind, even when a person doesn’t react gratefully to that kindness. She wrote “You have no idea what people are going through.” She urged people to give others at least three chances.
“I thought the whole presentation was very touching,” said a senior named Elizabeth. “Rachel's story touched the hearts of many students and really drew in all of them. Rachel's story of a chain reaction was a great way for all the students to try and make an impact on the world with a simple act of kindness. The presentation showed me that life can be short and to live it to the absolute fullest and always be kind to everyone, because you never know who is hurting and whose last day it could be. You may save a life with kindness like Rachel.”
For more information, visit rachelschallenge.org.