SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Lakeside students are always searching for ways to make a positive impact on the community. Whether the motivation for doing so comes from students within the school, faculty in the school, leaders in the community, or elsewhere, the population of Dragons is usually up to something selfless. With the help of a group known as Rachel’s Challenge, Lakeside students have found another outlet to spread kindness and goodwill throughout the school and the community.
Rachel’s Challenge, which began in Littleton, Colo., is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a culture of compassion wherever the challenge is accepted. The organization was founded in 1999, after the Columbine High School shooting. Rachel Scott was one of the victims in the tragic incident. After her death, her father, Darrell Scott, and brother, Craig Scott, started Rachel’s Challenge as a way to continue on her legacy of compassion and goodwill toward others.
The organization's mission is: to “motivate, educate and bring positive change to many young people.” They travel to schools across the nation, giving presentations to students using footage of the Columbine massacre, pictures of Rachel’s drawings and writings, and personal accounts from Rachel’s family and friends. They urge students to be compassionate and kind. The main point of these presentations is to encourage students to start a “chain reaction” of kindness – one of Rachel’s ideas. The organization revolves around one of Rachel’s quotes: “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.”
The logic behind the idea is that if one person shows kindness, others will show kindness in return, creating a “chain” of kindness and compassion. The movement has been quite successful in schools all across the nation. Rachel’s Challenge successfully prevents bullying; the program spreads positive thoughts and encourages students to treat others with respect. The group has also helped to prevent more than 500 suicides throughout the last three years.
On Dec. 12, Rachel’s Challenge came to Lakeside. The ambassadors from Rachel’s Challenge started a group at Lakeside called Friends of Rachel. The Friends of Rachel take on the responsibility of driving Rachel’s message forward within the school and the community. After an emotional presentation, more than 150 students were trained on how to be leaders and on how to further the movement. These students were also specially trained in bullying prevention and peer mediation.
Jostalyn Klosky, one of the advisers of Lakeside’s Friends of Rachel, is particularly pleased with how well the group has been received in the school.
“I think a lot of kids really enjoyed the assembly. It really reached out to them,” Klosky said.
Rachel’s message touched the students at Lakeside and inspired them to make a difference in the lives of others.
Lakeside’s Friends of Rachel decided to continue Rachel’s mission by forging their own chains of kindness. The students continuously create a metaphorical chain by respecting and supporting each other. They also created a physical chain to represent the “chain reaction” concept. Each link of the chain holds a kind and encouraging message written by a Lakeside student or a compassionate act that someone witnessed. The group hopes to have a massive chain by the end of the year, which should, in accordance with Rachel’s ideologies, inspire even more students to join the growing community and accept “Rachel’s Challenge.” The chain now contains more than 1,000 links. It serves as a reminder to always treat others with kindness and respect, and new links are constantly being added on.
The Friends of Rachel also spread Rachel’s message through the use of kind words. They create colorful, inspiring posters and hang them throughout the school in hopes that they will brighten someone’s day. They also act as support for students who have fallen on hard times and just need someone to talk to.
Rachel’s message has inspired millions of people worldwide. Her story has spread kindness and generosity across the globe and, more importantly, saved lives. Whether she knows it or not, Rachel has left a lasting mark on the world, and her chain reaction of kindness has touched us all.
To find out more about Rachel’s Challenge, visit www.rachelschallenge.org.