“I have this theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.” These words, spoken as part of an assembly at East Juniata High School on September 26, 2019, are ones that are sparking action.
Hearing the story of 17-year-old Rachel Joy Scott, the first person killed during the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999, made the entire auditorium of 7th through 12th grade students silent. A presentation filled with hope and kindness inspired the school through “Rachel’s Challenge.”
Rachel Scott was just like any other teenager, but her belief in the power of compassion had remarkable results. After her death, Rachel’s family found journals and an essay of hers that spoke of her dedication to kindness. Friends of the young girl told stories of how she had impacted their lives. Her family then decided to found a non-profit called Rachel’s Challenge, whose mission is “making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect, and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.”
The assembly was composed of five challenges for the students: 1) Look for the best in others, 2) Dream big, 3) Choose positive influences, 4) Speak with kindness, and 5) Start your own chain reaction. These five challenges were taken to heart with the East Juniata student body, and action started right away.
The same day of the assembly, about a third of the school’s students attended a training to learn how to implement Rachel’s Challenge and a FOR (Friends of Rachel) Club in their school to promote kindness. Right away, ideas were shared, and the FOR Club began.
At the first official meeting for the club, those attending wrote positive messages on Post-it notes and stuck them on lockers around the school. The club meets every other week for an hour, where more new ideas on how to spread kindness are shared.
Everyone at East Juniata is excited to see where Rachel’s Challenge and the FOR Club will lead in the future. After all, as Rachel Scott once said herself, “People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”