Travis Shingledecker ’13
Are you ready to take the challenge? On December 14th, the Mountain Lakes High School community was invited to join Rachel’s Challenge with the help of an MLHS student, Cassandra Couwenberg who heard about the program from a friend. This program was inspired by the immense optimism and tremendous kindness of the first homicide victim in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999; the seventeen-year-old’s name was Rachel Scott.
Prior to her death, Scott wrote an article entitled, “My Ethics, My Codes of Life,” in which she discussed her theory that “if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same.” Eventually, this quote transformed into the foundation of Rachel’s Challenge, which is meant to continue this chain reaction of kindness one link at a time.
Photo Courtesy of:http://www.rachelschallenge.org/
The Challenge was first presented to the MLHS student body and faculty with a heart-wrenching presentation in the morning. During the presentation, the guest speaker discussed the tragic events of the Columbine shooting which resulted in the deaths of fourteen students and one teacher. The speaker continued with a discussion about Rachel Scott’s impact on the world and the significance of the Challenge; principally, there are five key points that act as the tenants of the program. These tenants include looking for the best in people, daring to dream big, carefully choosing positive influences, using kind words, and telling those who matter most how much they are loved. According to the speaker, these were all factors that played integral roles in Rachel’s life.
After a 45-minute debriefing, over 100 students were ushered into the Auxiliary Gym to undergo a training session. The session began in an open forum styled manner as the speaker encouraged students to walk up to the front of the crowd and talk about some of their prior experiences with either bullying or simply extending kindness towards other people. Afterwards, there was a small presentation about bullying followed by an introduction to the Friends of Rachel Club (FOR), which all of the students were invited to join. FOR is a club that is meant to continue Rachel’s Challenges throughout the year.
Photo Courtesy of: Kat Delitto ’13
Upon learning about FOR, the selected students and faculty gathered in small groups to discuss ways in which her message can be presented to the MLHS community through organized activities and integration exercises, and there were many fantastic ideas that were discussed.
Despite being emotion-provoking, the program was very well-received by the student body. For example, Emma Bukowiecki ’13 said, “Rachel’s Challenge didn’t [just] inspire me to be nice to others. It inspired me to be nicer to myself.” This sentiment was certainly shared by many after the assembly, and, hopefully, will soon be realized by all of the students.
Couwenberg too was very pleased with the result. She said, “I think the assembly was a great success, and I am very excited for our FOR club…The point of the club is to spread Rachel’s message and give us all of the tools to follow our five challenges. There will be many activities [arranged], and I know our FOR club has the potential to change the culture of our school.” If you wish to participate in Rachel’s Challenges, the FOR club will be announcing some of its agendas and activities at the start of the New Year!