Community accepts challenge of kindness
by Courtney Stevens
Oct 03, 2013 | 1180 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Erin Wilson, eighth-grader at Bayou Academy, signs the Rachel's Challenge banner, saying she will take on the five challenges discussed during the presentation.
Erin Wilson, eighth-grader at Bayou Academy, signs the Rachel's Challenge banner, saying she will take on the five challenges discussed during the presentation.
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Tissues were passed around to dry eyes in the Margaret Green Junior High School Gym on Wednesday night.

Junior Auxiliary of Cleveland sponsored Rachel's Challenge, an event that was presented at Bayou Academy, Margaret Green Junior High School, Cleveland High School, East Side High School and D.M. Smith Middle School over the last two days.

Rachel was the first of 12 students to die in the Columbine Shooting in 1999 and it was from this tragedy that her family created Rachel's Challenge, a "series of student empowering programs and strategies that equip students and adults to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion," according to the Rachel's Challenge Website.

Through Rachel's Challenge, students from sixth grade up are given five challenges: look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness, and start your own chain reaction.

During the presentation a representative of Rachel's Challenge told the story of Rachel's death, shared several pages from her personal journals, and told stories of Rachel standing up to bullies in her school.

The videos presented featured Rachel's family members, friends, acquaintances, and those changed after hearing Rachel's Challenge.

Over 2000 students, teachers, staff, and administration in the Cleveland school district, as well as Bayou Academy, had the opportunity to hear Rachel's Challenge. "We had a wonderful response from students, and have heard back from their parents,” said Lesley Mancini, a JA member and organizer of the event.

"Tonight we had probably 200 community members as well as children who actually saw the presentation earlier in the last two days.

"We really hope that the students who heard the message, and the parents, will allow it to have an impact on their lives and we will be able to see a difference in the community."

While the students of the public school enjoyed Rachel's Challenge, it was Bayou Academy that had an even more unique experience after their new headmaster David Granville, who was absent during the presentation, revealed where he had been.

"I had tears in my eyes when Mr. Granville came out and said that he had heard the lesson before at Simpson and had seen changes there, but he did something new.

"He went into the coach's office and got on his knees and prayed for us the whole time — prayed that not only would it touch us but change us as well.

"It showed he really cared about us and our actions," said Chrissy Tubbs, a ninth grader at BA.

"It made me realize that if I want people to treat me the way I want to be treated then I have to be kind too. I have to change first before they are going to change for me," said BA eighth grader Erin Wilson.

Through Rachel's Challenge, many community members truly hope that students in the Cleveland School District and BA will take to heart the words of Rachel Scott, "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. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."