On Wednesday morning, eighth grade students and teachers at gathered in the auditorium for the end-of-the-year awards assembly. Students received awards ranging from Most Improved in Science to Excellence in Angry Birds During Homeroom as their homeroom teachers sang their praises, ending the year on the positive note.
As the assembly came to a close, eighth grade student Andrea Chavez took the podium to speak about Rachel's Challenge and about the long chain of paper links — 665 in total — that lined the front of the room, each recording an act of kindness.
“The chain links show the kindness going on in our school,” Chavez said.
The chain links are a way of symbolizing the words of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. In an essay for school, 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.”
These words have taken on a life far greater than a high school paper and are now the foundation of Rachel’s Challenge — a program in schools across the country that asks students to make positive changes in the way they treat others.
“Teachers have acknowledged kids that helped them with bulletin boards or helped clean up, staff has acknowledged staff, teachers, custodians,” Sharon Wade, office support specialist at TOR said. “The chain will be displayed outside the auditorium so everyone can see it.”
Paper links in the main office were attached to the sixth graders' chains at their assembly, then the seventh graders' links, and finally, the eighth graders' links to create the final chain.
Rachel's Challenge launched at TOR back in October when the school gathered for a presentation about the program's goals and about Rachel Joy Scott’s life.
“It’s very impactful when they see the video and hear from her father and her brother,” Wade said. “The students coming in were infants, maybe not born [at the time of Columbine].”
TOR’s Community Service Club, renamed the Rachel’s Challenge Club, met after school throughout the year. While numbers fluctuated based on other extracurricular activities, the Rachel's Challenge Club had a core group of 15-30 members.
“[Andrea Chavez] was one of the first people to get involved when Community Service Club was created, she’s an amazing kid,” Wade said.
Next year, representatives from Rachel’s Challenge will return to TOR for a presentation to the new sixth grade class.
“They trained students and staff about bringing awareness to acts of kindness, anti-bullying, peace,” Sharon Wade, said. “It definitely made a difference — we’ve seen a shifting in the culture, less fighting.”