MIAMI COUNTY — The Rachel’s Challenge program is back in Miami County schools continuing to emphasize compassion and kindness.
The program being offered courtesy of the UVMC Foundation is based on the writings and life of 17-year-old Rachel Joy Scott, who was among the 12 students and one teacher fatally shot at Columbine High School in 1999. The program is designed to combat bullying and address feelings of isolation through the use of kindness and compassion in everyday dealings.
Rachel’s Challenge programs and activities are available for students in elementary through high school.
In addition to formal assemblies introducing the program, students can participate in clubs with activities that help bring the Rachel’s Challenge concepts to life.
At Piqua High School, the Friends of Rachel Club (FOR) meets monthly after school. Participants look at concerns and ideas involving the school climate, said Lindsay Muhlenkamp, who co-advises the club with Kacie Pace.
“Hot topics usually revolve around giving students opportunities to make friends, promote home school safety, and make an impact in our school and community,” Muhlenkamp said.
In previous years, FOR Club held fundraisers promoting giving to groups or organizations that benefit students. The fundraisers led to two students winning a one-year membership to the local YMCA. This year’s FOR Club focus will be on increasing positivity in the high school. Planned activities include a Lunch Bunch offering the opportunity for students who often sit alone in the cafeteria to engage in conversations with FOR Club members, and providing inspirational quotes for the morning announcements once a week.
“The things we do aren’t necessarily large-scale, but our goal is to follow Rachel’s theory that one person going out of their way to show compassion can start a chain reaction of kindness,” said Morgan Hammiel, a PHS student and FOR Club member.
At Miami East schools, a Chain Reaction Day has been held since the return to school in August. During that day, students participated in activities such as drawing around their hands and including a description of how they would meet Rachel’s Challenge.
The district’s Chain Links Group is made up of students in grades 6-8. The voluntary program gives students an opportunity throughout the school year to participate in service, leadership and positive interaction projects. Students write notes to those who serve as speakers and interact with them during the program.
“Miami East and Miami County schools have benefitted greatly by the addition of the Rachel’s Challenge program. It is much more than an anti-bullying program,” said Allen Mack, principal at Miami East Junior High School. “It is more of an approach to helping students develop compassion, kindness and really positive characteristics versus a preventive thing.”
Over the summer, as part of the UVMC Foundation’s Rachel’s Challenge Project, Foundation funding made it possible for representatives of the Miami East and Piqua schools to attend the Rachel’s Challenge summit in Dallas. The theme was the incorporation of social/emotional learning in the education process.
“Speakers discussed how empathy and compassion need to be taught much like math. They don’t hinder the educational experience, but enhance the learning experience,” Mack said.
“We were excited to hear this. We want to help raise great kids,” he added. “They will be stronger students if they are motivated to help others and are compassionate.”
At Covington Elementary School, Rachel’s Challenge is incorporated into daily routines through the Kindness Acts program. Through the program, students are encouraged to share information on such gestures that occur at home or school. Incorporating the chain reaction theme encouraged by the Rachel’s Challenge program, the students note acts of kindness on paper links to make a chain, said Principal Rick Fry.
“Last year, we formed a kindness chain of good deeds that reached all the way around our high school track,” Fry said. “We are hoping to double that this year.”
For more information on the Rachel’s Challenge program, visit rachelschallenge.org. For more information on the UVMC Foundation, visit uvmc.com/Foundation/About-Our-Charitable-Foundation, or call (937) 440-7541.