Starting a chain reaction
Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer, 17-year-old Rachel Scott said in her diary. Scott was the first person shot and killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting that took 13 innocent lives. Today, Scott’s legacy lives on and Monday it was brought to Donaldsonville when Lowery Middle School held a Rachel’s Challenge Rally first for the students and later for the community.
Rachel's Challenge is 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 rachelschallenge.org.
Students and parents were receptive of the challenge as the speaker DeeDee Cooper shared the story about Scott and how a small act of kindness can impact the world.
“I think we had an excellent turnout,” Nicole Grimes said, LMS Principal. “I am so excited about the number of people that came out tonight and I hope that we can continue to have a chain reaction with not only the number of people that came but also what the message was about.”
Cooper presented a program to the students earlier Monday during the school day and Grimes said she believes the kids really did get the message as some of them were in tears and wanting to be hugged by Grimes and some of the other staff.
“It was very touching to see the kids with tears and it showed me the need,” Grimes said. “It showed me we need to continue to educate the whole child and we need to consider all those factors when we’re looking at how we grow our students academically.”
After the students’ program, Cooper invited a select group of kids and mentors to become part of the Friends of Rachel Club. Grimes said she knows know working together with the Friends of Rachel Club and with “awesome mentors we can make this a big deal for our school and make this also impact student achievement.”
The Ascension Parish School Board brought the idea to Principal Grimes and from there the chain reaction started.
The Rachel’s Challenge stresses one to look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and start a chain reaction.
Several dignitaries from the City of Donaldsonville, ASPB, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the State of Louisiana appeared at the two programs. In the evening program, City of Donaldsonville’s Sandra Williams presented Grimes with a proclamation stating August 26 as “An act of Kindness Day” in Donaldsonville.
Louisiana State Representative Ed Price attended the student’s program and said simply it’s a wonderful program and “it’s evident in seeing some of the kids crying.”
“It’s about kindness, it’s about compassion, it’s about teaching kids to do the right thing and don’t go around bullying,” Price said. “This is the type of program we need and it is wonderful that these kids are so receptive to a program like this. I truly believe they are learning a lot today.”
Richard Brown, ASPB district 3 board member, said he had seen the project before in another state and to have it here in Ascension Parish was well-needed. He said he could see the kids focusing in on what the Rachel’s Challenge was and that alone showed the impact it had on them.
For Cooper, who has shared the story hundreds of time, each time is just as special, “because I know that they are getting it and realizing that they can be different and act different and treat each other with love and kindness.”
“It moves me every time to see another chain reaction starting,” Cooper said. “This is another chain reaction starting at this school and it’s going to start and take off and you guys have an amazing support system here already so I can’t wait to see what you do. I’m excited.”
Grimes added, “I want to thank everybody from the school board bringing the idea to us and to everybody that made it possible in making it manifest here today and tonight.”