Inspired by kindness and the idea of paying it forward, Rachel’s Challenge channels positivity from tragedy. Rachel’s Challenge is named for Rachel Joy Scott, a student who lost her life in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Known by her peers for her remarkable kindness, Rachel made a point in her daily life to make everyone feel included, whether they were new to school or socially isolated. Even one-time interactions she had with her classmates are remembered fondly by those she had them with to this day. In Rachel’s final essay for school titled, “My Ethics, My Code of Life,” she 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. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.” Her message and her mission lives on to this day through the words she left behind in journals and school papers.
The cornerstone of Rachel’s Challenge is how kindness creates chain reactions as well as the importance of not judging people on first impressions because you never know what they’re going through.
The five steps of Rachel’s Challenge are:
In the presentation for the Lower School, students were challenged by the speaker to create “chains of kindness.” For every act that happens or is seen, a paper chain will be created, and linked to others. The goal is to make the chain as long as possible, a feat that can only be accomplished through steady commitment.
In the Middle School presentation, another tool was introduced, “positive gossip.” The concept of positive gossip promotes telling others compliments that happen behind their back. A historic example of the positive effects this can have is in the once-adversarial relationship between the second and third presidents of the United States, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Thanks to their mutual friend, Benjamin Reach, Jefferson and Adams eventually became best friends. Reach made a habit of telling the other compliments they had given without the other knowing, which led to a positive outcome.
By having speakers from Rachel’s Challenge visit schools across the country, and hopefully sparking compassion, the organization aims to create a ripple effect in schools to reduce bullying and acts of violence. One of Rachel Joy Scott’s most poignant drawings is a tracing of the outlines of her hands. Inside the sketch she wrote, “These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts.” Twenty-five million people to date have heard the Rachel’s Challenge presentation. Safe to say, she has. Learn more about Rachel’s Challenge by visiting www.rachelschallenge.com.