Hedgesville Middle School students accept 'Rachel's Challenge'

September 17, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. -- Rachel's Challenge - a program used in schools to help reduce bullying and violence -- was introduced to more than 600 students at Hedgesville Middle School on Tuesday.

It was one of the first schools in Berkeley County to implement the program, school principal Elizabeth Adams said.

"The response was wonderful," she said.

Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999, and her family and others have been making presentations on her behalf.

Presenter Hannah Nelson said she became a Rachel's Challenge speaker a few years after meeting Rachel Scott's older sister, Dana.

"She asked me to become a speaker. How could you say no? I was honored," Nelson said.

The presentation includes video and audio clips of the Columbine tragedy in Littleton, Colo., where 12 students and one teacher were killed by two high school students.

Rachel Scott was known for her acts of kindness and compassion toward others. She kept diaries, which were found after her death, and her writing inspired the program's inception. She wrote:

  • Eliminate prejudice by looking for best in others

  • Dare to Dream - Write goals - Keep a journal

  • Choose positive influences

  • Kind words and little acts of kindness bring huge results

  • Start a chain reaction with family and friends

    These words are the goals of the Friends of Rachel -- the students who take up her challenge, Nelson said.

    Adams said 95 percent of the 607 students signed up to accept Rachel's Challenge.

    Sixth-grade students Madison Weaver and Mikayla Richardson both knew about Rachel Scott and her death at Columbine High School.

    Mikayla said she knew she was 17 when she died and she would have been 27 had she lived.

    Both students were influenced by the presentation and said they wanted to accept Rachel's Challenge. They signed their names.

    Madison said she wanted to bring her mother to the evening presentation Tuesday.

    Adams said the chain-reaction teams will focus on new kids in school, cliques, writing thank-you notes to those who might go unnoticed, and everybody will meet new people by sitting with them at lunch on "mix it up day."

    "Each individual person has the ability to make a huge difference," Adams said.

    Chris Ruest, the physical education teacher at the middle school and the basketball coach at Hedgesville High School, said it was the first time he saw Rachel's Challenge. 

    "It was outstanding -- a first-class program," Ruest said.

    "The approach it takes is so refreshing with the focus on kindness instead of cynicism. We've become a 'me' society, and Rachel's Challenge is all about caring for your fellow human being no matter where they come from or what they look like," he said.

    "The goal is that everybody promotes kindness," Adams said. "The students want acts of kindness to be the cool thing to do."

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