Students at Merced’s Hoover Middle School are taking part in a new initiative to support a positive learning environment called “Rachel’s Challenge.”
School official said the program is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first victim of the Columbine school shooting in 1999. The goal of the program is to equip and inspire participants to replace acts of bullying and negativity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion.
The challenge kicked off on Wednesday with assemblies for all Hoover students. The presentation included powerful videos about the tragedy at Columbine and inspiring messages that Rachel expressed through her diary and an essay she wrote just weeks before her death. That essay focused on the idea that one act of kindness can spark a chain reaction.
Presenter David Hills asked students to accept Rachel’s Challenge by: Looking for the best in others, dreaming big, choosing positive influences, speaking with kindness and starting their own chain reaction.
After the morning assemblies, Hills met with about 100 students who were selected to be part of a club called “Friends of Rachel.” The club will work to promote the challenge throughout the year. He asked the seventh and eighth graders to share how the presentation impacted them and then provided ideas for creating and maintaining a culture of kindness and compassion on their campus. Later, Hills also led an assembly open to parents and other community members.
“We know that bullying is a concern nationwide, and we really believe this program can make a positive impact for our students during a transformative time in their lives,” said Hoover Assistant Principal Chuck Pirtle.
Rachel’s Challenge complements the Merced City School District’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, which is now being used at all 18 campuses. PBIS is a research-based, nationally recognized framework that promotes a positive culture of making good choices on school campuses. It includes clear expectations for the students as well as incentives and intervention plans.