Rachel Joy Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Her acts of kindness and compassion, coupled with the contents of her six diaries have become the foundation for Rachel’s Challenge, one of the most life-changing school programs in America.
Sixth- through eighth-grade Lebanon schools students will attend presentations documenting Scott and her life story. These assemblies create the “want to” or desire for positive change. On Monday and Tuesday, Lebanon schools will hold year three of Rachel’s Challenge.
“Each day, 160,000 students do not go to school because they are bullied, teased and harassed,” said Lebanon Family Resource Center director Beth Petty. “By turning the story of a tragic death at Columbine High School into a mission for change, Rachel's Challenge is helping create safer learning environments and making a worldwide impact. Through her death, her family learned that 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 Scott 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."
As a result of the presentation, hundreds of Lebanon middle school students joined the Friends of Rachel Club and have been leading their classmates and teachers to commit targeted acts of kindness they have documented by paper chains linked together to start their own chain reaction of kindness.
“Lebanon schools accepts Rachel’s Challenge and is committed to promoting kindness and compassion so our schools remain safe places to learn and live,” Petty said. “We have already seen that Rachel’s Challenge has sparked a change in how students treat each other. They are showing more acts of kindness and compassion toward each other. Rachel especially wanted to make sure new students, special needs students, and isolated students were reached out to.”
Through her writings, her family has based Rachel’s Challenge on five things she believed:
1. Look for the best in others – eliminate prejudice.
2. Dream big – set goals – keep a journal.
3. Choose positive influences.
4. Small acts of kindness reap huge results.
5. Start a chain reaction of kindness.
“We don’t want to stop at the school level,” said Linda Schenk, Wilson County Rachel’s Challenge coordinator. “We need the help of our community as we celebrate a year filled with kindness and compassion.” On Tuesday, the Rachel’s Challenge Parent and Community Event will be at Walter J. Baird Middle School. “When we hosted this year’s kick-off rally at the fair, almost 250 people attended,” Petty said. “We were thrilled with our attendance, but we want more. For a chain reaction to really work, we need parent and community buy in. We want every parent of fourth- through eighth-grade students to attend the event with their child. We want every pastor and youth minister to come and bring their youth groups. We want every leader of every organization in Lebanon to attend and take Rachel’s beliefs back to the workplace. Wilson County is already the most amazing place to live and work, but we can make it even better, and a program like this will be a positive catalyst for change.”
Funding for this year’s program came easily. Lebanon schools were already financially committed, but after an event last year, community buy in was also readily available. Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen was the first to say he wanted to be involved. Lebanon police is funding more than one half of the cost of the program.
In addition, Officer P.J. Hardy is meeting monthly with the Rachel’s Challenge FOR Clubs at both Winfree Bryant Middle School and Walter J. Baird Middle School. Funding from a Middle Tennessee Electric Customers Care grant is also helping pay for year three.
“We have seen the impact this program has on our students and our community is committed to keeping the chain reaction going,” said Petty.
Winfree Bryant Middle School will hold its student assembly Monday at 9 a.m. The FOR Club meeting will take place Tuesday at 1 p.m.
Walter J. Baird Middle School will hold two student assemblies Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. The FOR Club meeting will be at 1 p.m.
The Parent and Community Event will take place Tuesday from 6:30-8 p.m. at Walter J. Baird Middle School and will include the Rachel’s Challenge presentation, as well as student entertainment. One attendee will receive an electronic tablet. Petty said reservations are not necessary. For more information, contact Petty at 615-453-2693. All Wilson County parents and students are invited to attend.
For more information about programs, clubs, etc., visit rachelschallenge.org.