At the beginning of the school year, the students of Huntingdon Area High School (HAHS) were presented with a special assembly from a speaker with the Rachel’s Challenge organization. The presentation, along with the creation of the (Friends of Rachel) FOR club, was aimed at changing the HAHS school climate.
The Rachel’s Challenge organization was created to memorialize Rachel Joy Scott’s life and legacy. Rachel Scott was the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting April 20, 1999. After Rachel’s death, the Scott family was flooded was stories from peers and teachers alike about the many small acts of kindness Rachel had done throughout her life.
The Scott family quickly recognized the profound impact Rachel’s acts of kindness had created, so they founded Rachel’s Challenge, a nonprofit organization devoted to sharing Rachel’s story.
Miss Scott’s ambition in life was to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion, which is now the fundamental basis of the Scott family’s mission. According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, their goals are to “[make] schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect.” Additionally, they strive to awaken learning and teaching to their fullest at all schools they visit.
All of these principles were laid out to the HAHS students who attended the Rachel’s Challenge assembly. The speaker first showed a video describing Miss Scott’s life, which was then followed by an in-depth description of the five challenges of the program.
The five challenges of the program were described as “[looking] for the best in others, [dreaming] big, [choosing] positive influences, [speaking] with kindness, and [starting] your own chain reaction.” Along with descriptions and examples of each, the presentation centered around how these could be implemented into the HAHS school environment.
After the Rachel’s Challenge presentation was given, students of HAHS completed a survey from their Google Classroom which included their interest level in being a part of the new FOR Rachel club at the school. All students who displayed interest in joining the club attended a separate FOR Rachel Club training later that day.
The training began with a description of other FOR Rachel clubs and the previous activities they had accomplished. Then, the group of approximately 50 HAHS students were split into groups to brainstorm ideas for projects at the high school. All of the ideas centered around the theme of kindness, with some of the examples including initiating a family table at lunch, creating a pen pal letter writing system for students in need, starting a closet of clothes or toiletries for students in need and creating murals or other artwork to be placed around the school.
The major theme of the FOR Rachel training program was centered on incorporating the lessons taught during the assembly into the school environment to truly foster a culture of kindness and compassion. After the club training, multiple students expressed their happiness and excitement with the experience.
Although the club is still in its fledgling stages, it seems as though its future is bright with the promise of creating a cultural shift at HAHS towards kindness and compassion.