Rachel’s Challenge Heading to Miami County Schools
When the Rachel’s Challenge program is introduced at Miami County schools in the fall, it will be more than a one-day assembly, program organizers promise.
“We want to be a program that changes the atmosphere within a school permanently,” Cody Hodges, a Rachel’s Challenge presenter, told community leaders and Upper Valley Medical Center management team members during a program introduction May 29.
The UVMC Foundation is bringing the Rachel’s Challenge program to all county schools in the fall in the first of a planned multi-year project designed to combat bullying and address feelings of isolation through use of kindness and compassion in daily dealings.
The program’s empowering strategies with a focus on respect and concern for others grew from the tragedy of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.
Rachel is Rachel Joy Scott, the first Columbine student to be killed that April day when 12 students and one teacher were fatally shot by two students.
The program is based on the 17 year old’s writings and life. She was an advocate for kindness and compassion, a student who reached out to those new to the school and those who were picked on by others.
The foundation agreed to pay for the program after reviewing findings of youth risks identified in a health assessment conducted last year by UVMC and the Miami County Health District.
“Data indicated an issue with bullying along with children feeling as if no one cared for them,” Kathleen Scarbrough, president and executive director of the UVMC Foundation, said. Those feelings were expressed by a “fairly significant” percentage of students, in keeping with national data, she said.
The foundation has made a multi-year commitment to the program and will be looking for funding partners in subsequent years.
Training of teachers and other school representatives already has begun. The program will be introduced to more than 12,000 students along with parents and the community in general beginning in September. For elementary age children, the program focuses on kindness, with no mention of the Columbine shootings.
The overall program emphasis is not on the Columbine violence, Hodges said. “Our focus is not on how Rachel Scott died. Our focus is on how Rachel Scott lived her life,” he said.
The program includes five “challenges” for daily living including: look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and tell others how you appreciate them.
For more information on Rachel’s Challenge, visit www.rachelschallenge.org.
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