BY STACI WILSON
Blue Ridge students spent the days leading up to an anti-bullying assembly learning about the program’s namesake, Rachel Joy Scott.
Scott was the first person killed in the April 1999 Columbine school shooting that claimed the life of 13 students and one teacher.
After reading Scott’s personal writing and diaries, her family decided to fulfill Scott’s personal plan “to make an impact on the world.”
It was in those writings that the tenets of what became “Rachel’s Challenge” was born.
In a personal code of ethics written as a class assignment, Scott issued people a challenge to “start a chain reaction of kindness.”
Noting five specific elements, Rachel’s Challenge invites student participants to look for the best in others and eliminate prejudice; set goals; choose positive influences; use kind words and show small acts of kindness; and work for forgiveness.
Jim May, a friend of Scott’s father, Darrel Scott, spoke to Blue Ridge sixth through 12th graders Thursday morning.
But the message of Rachel’s Challenge at Blue Ridge is not ending with the assembly.
The middle and high school students are working on ways to implement the message in the schools – from anti-bullying poster and student-created public service announcement efforts to designing a bracelet emblazoned with a positive, motivating message selected from student entries.
Middle school principal Matthew Nebzydoski said, “Student reaction to the program has been overwhelming.”
Students have approached teachers, guidance counselors and administrators with ideas of how to implement Rachel’s Challenge on a daily basis in the schools.
Nebzydoski said one of the ideas getting off the ground very quickly is the formation of a new-student welcoming committee that would work with the student council to make sure new enrollees have a place to eat at lunch and are made a part of the Blue Ridge community.
“The ideas are coming from the kids – not the adults,” said the principal.
Following the assembly, students were invited to stay for a second session led by May that focused on how they could do little things that could add up to make a big difference in the school culture.
Nevzydoski said, “We already have a group of kids willing to lend a helping hand but this really sparked them even more so.”
“Obviously it was a pretty emotional day for the students,” said the principal. Days later, he said the building was still buzzing. “It really struck a chord – which is what we had hoped for.”