By Mary O’KEEFE
Mountain Avenue Elementary students were asked to start a chain reaction of kindness at an assembly on Friday.
The Rachel’s Challenge program was presented to the elementary school kids as part of Red Ribbon Week and a year-long, district-wide anti-bullying campaign.
Rachel Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, Scott’s acts of kindness and compassion, coupled with the contents of her six diaries, have become the foundation for one of the most life-changing school programs in America.
Powerful video/audio footage of Rachel’s life and the Columbine tragedy are shown to students as part of a one-hour school presentation that motivates them to positive change in the way they treat others. The program has been presented at Crescenta Valley High School and Rosemont Middle School. Each time, the presentation is tempered to fit the age of the students. At the high school level, the entire story of Rachel is told. At the elementary school, the program was tailored to highlight Rachel’s positive attitude.
The program invited kids to start a chain reaction of kindness at their school. It focused on setting goals, eliminating prejudice by looking for the best in people, choosing positive influences, letting loved ones know how you feel and offering kinds words to others.
“I think it is a positive program for the kids,” said Principal Rebeca Witt.
The PTA brought the program to the school for Red Ribbon Week. During the presentation the students were shown videos of familiar bullying situations or of a student that sits on the outside of groups looking in.
At each video and photo slide, Rachel’s Challenge presenter Stacia Butler related it to Rachel’s journal and to her life. A story of a student who sat by herself at lunch until Rachel befriended her. Another story of a boy who was being picked on and how Rachel walked over to talk to him.
“These are simple acts of kindness,” Butler told the students. She added how those acts can make a big difference in someone’s life.
Butler told more stories of bullying, both obvious and those not so obvious, when just a look or whisper can hurt. She challenged the students to be different, not to follow the leader but to be themselves. All of this with the visual background of Rachel’s journals, of her drawings and writings.
“She just said that Rachel was a young girl that had died,” Witt said. The reality of Rachel’s tragic death was not shared with elementary age students.
“We don’t talk about how she died, just about her positive [life and influence],” Butler said.
The program is built around a philosophy of which Rachel 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.”