On November 1, 2012, North Lincoln Middle School became the first Lincoln County School to accept Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel’s Challenge is a series of student empowering programs and strategies that teach students and adults to combat bullying by creating a “culture of kindness and compassion.” The programs are based on the writing and life of Rachel Joy Scott, the first student tragically lost at the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. School assemblies, student and teacher leadership training, and a community night were all hosted by NLMS to promote the Challenge throughout the school and community and to help students, staff and other stakeholders become aware of both the destructive nature of bullying and the power of kindness.
Students began the challenge by hearing from Nasha Snipes, one of the Rachel’s Challenge staff members, at an assembly. Nasha spent time introducing Rachel to the students and staff, particularly her life, her impact, and her legacy. Nasha then presented the students and staff with five challenges:
1. Look for the best in others. Eliminate prejudice.
2. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
3. Choose positive influences.
4. Speak words of kindness. Words can hurt, or words can heal.
5. Forgive yourself and others.
Students and staff were challenged to uphold these five challenges and were given the opportunity to sign a banner committing themselves to the challenge. Parents and other community stakeholders also viewed the presentation and challenges at an evening assembly.
Later that day, over seventy-five members of the student body and fourteen members of the staff attended a leadership training session with Ms. Snipes. This team of teachers and students received special training to become the “Friends of Rachel” Club, which takes on the responsibility of carrying on the attitude of change from the Rachel’s Challenge assemblies. The club is responsible for five areas: welcoming new students, letters of appreciation, student-athlete support, challenge events, and chains of kindness. Each committee is headed by one eighth grade student and a teacher, and is supported by a team of students from all grade levels.
NLMS has started the chain of kindness project. This project consists of students reporting acts of kindness on strips of paper, which are collected and connected into a paper chain that wraps around the hallways of the school. Also, the students are working to sell Rachel’s Challenge t-shirts, write letters of appreciation to staff members and student groups, and develop a week-long plan to help new students become familiar with and welcomed in the school community.
Kiser Intermediate School and Pumpkin Center Intermediate School students learned about Rachel’s Challenge on January 10, 2013. The elementary session did not focus on nor discuss the nature of Rachel Scott’s death, but instead focused on how she lived her life and the challenges she set forth for us all: influence, goal setting, journaling, acceptance and kindness. Kiser Intermediate Principal Melanie Huss also invited third grade students from S. Ray Lowder, G.E. Massey and Battleground Elementary Schools to learn about the challenge as they prepare to transition to Kiser next year. Principal Huss explained to students that not only did she want them to be the best readers and the best mathematicians; she also wanted them to be the best people that they can be. Ms. Snipes, the presenter, encouraged students to use kind words, do nice things, include others, and start a chain reaction. Pumpkin Center Intermediate School Principal Misha Rogers said, “We are excited about starting a "chain reaction" at our school. Our students are signing posters with their classmates, accepting Rachel's Challenge. We are also excited about the acts of kindness we are already seeing!”
For more information about the Rachel’s Challenge program visit their website at http://www.rachelschallenge.org/.