PHOTO: Rachel’s Challenge presenter Aaron Kinebrew (with microphone) speaks to middle school and high school students during a training session Sept. 10 at Monticello High School. (Photos by Pete Temple)
PHOTO: Happily taking part in a hug-your-neighbor moment during the Rachel’s Challenge training session Sept. 10 are Sammy Ahlrichs (facing camera) and Kaela Weber.
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Last week, Monticello middle and high school students were introduced to a program called “Rachel’s Challenge.” This program is inspired by the life and legacy of Rachel Scott, one of the students who was shot and killed during the Columbine High School Shooting on April 20, 1999.
Darrell Scott, Rachel’s father, founded the anti-bullying and anti-violence program. Since it started in the early 2000s, Rachel’s Challenge has reached more than 17 million people worldwide. Now, students here in Monticello have the opportunity to take Rachel Scott’s message to this community.
According to rachelschallenge.org, “Rachel’s Challenge exists to equip and inspire individuals to replace acts of violence, bullying and negativity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion. Through her (Rachel Scott) example, Rachel’s Challenge is making a positive impact in the lives of millions of people every year.
“Superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students bring Rachel’s Challenge into their schools because of escalating problems such as bullying, student isolation, teen suicide, discrimination, school violence and increased disciplinary actions.”
This idea of anti-bullying is not a new concept in Monticello schools. According to Elizabeth Medina, MHS Spanish teacher, who helped spearhead the program, “For the past two years the Monticello School District has been focusing on improving student academic and behavior outcomes by providing specialized training for its staff in order to better serve the students and the community through its PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Supports) initiative. As part of this district-wide initiative, we have engaged the students in a variety of activities that emphasize positive, rewarding behavior. As we moved into the third year of PBIS, we thought it appropriate to challenge ourselves, our students and our community to become positive, caring agents of change.”
In starting Rachel’s Challenge and bringing it to Monticello schools, Medina said, “We are hoping to continue our vision of creating lifelong learners by providing an environment that is not only academically challenging but also socially enriching. Rachel’s Challenge helps us educate students who will be both intellectually prepared to meet the demands of the workforce as well as socially responsible. We hope to empower and enable our students to show compassion for their peers and positively transform their world.”
After Rachel Scott’s untimely death, her family found her writings and poetry, outlining the basis for what was to become Rachel’s Challenge.
Presenting the concept to the students, parents and community last week was Aaron Kinebrew. He’s part of the Challenge team. Kinebrew outlined the five challenges that Rachel Scott outlined in her own writings:
One: Eliminate prejudice from your life. Don’t judge others. Look for the best in others.
Two: Dream big. Write your dreams down and turn your dreams into goals. Keep a journal or life story. You have the ability to believe in yourself; that’s what matters.
Three: Choose positive influences. The choices you make today impact the lives of people around you.
Kinebrew said the two boys who went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold) held Adolf Hitler in high regard, while Rachel Scott chose to admire such people as Anne Frank.
Four: Speak with kindness, not cruelty. Words can hurt or heal.
To quote Rachel Scott, “People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”
Five: Start your own chain reaction. Kindbrew said after Rachel’s death, her family heard from so many classmates and strangers about her kindness and generosity toward them. This started a Columbine chain reaction, of people passing kindness on to others, as Rachel did to them.
Kinebrew encouraged the Monticello students to start their own chain reaction, supported by the teachers and parents of the community.
Medina said the program was very well received by all of the students. “They are very excited to begin the ‘chain reaction’ presented by the Rachel’s Challenge program. They have come up with a long list of ideas of activities to involve the school and support their peers and are anxious to implement them.
“We feel the District as well as the community as a whole will reap the positive rewards of the seeds that have been planted by this program and its participants. We have seen a decrease in office referrals in the first two years of the implementation of the PBIS program in the high school. We hope to further decrease the referrals and increase student involvement in the school and the community.”
To learn more about Rachel’s Challenge yourself, visit rachelschallenge.org.
PHOTO: Rachel Gadient writes down some of the audience’s suggestions of things that are wrong in the schools.