Rachel's Challenge, with the theme “Inspiring Others with Kindness,” has been coming to various locations in the county this month.
Rachel's Challenge, with the theme "Inspiring Others with Kindness," has been coming to various locations in the county this month.
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."
It was founded by Darrell Scott and his wife Sandy, after his daughter Rachel was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
She was the first victim.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured 21 more on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colo. They later turned the gun on themselves.
The program has already come to Wallenpaupack High School and Honesdale High School and will be taking place at Western Wayne and Forest City High Schools this week.
"The students have been totally engaged," said Sarah Hopkins, who was part of the committee for bringing the program to this community. "The program is different between the elementary-grade levels and the high school level."
She said from attending one of the programs she noticed the students are "very respectful" of one another and are "showing kindness" to each other.
Jim Kennedy is the speaker for the program. Hopkins said that with the younger groups he "focuses on kindness" and with the high school students he talks about "starting a chain reaction" to help make a difference.
"He talks about choosing your words wisely," she said, "and how words can hurt or heal someone. It's about choosing your words wisely."
Not only is the program open to the public, but it is also being implemented into the schools.
"Each student has the opportunity to sign a banner that says 'I accept Rachel's Challenge' and they get a wristband for it," Hopkins said. "For the younger kids it says be kind and for the older ones it says inspire kindness."
Signing the banner is their pledge to keep spreading kindness and making a difference in someone's life. The banners are hung in the hallway afterward.
Middle and high school students also have the opportunity to join Rachel's Club.
"The schools are prepared and we have seen tremendous support from the staff at the schools," Hopkins stated. "It's amazing to see the community support and coming out to raise awareness about kindness."
The program at Wallenpaupack High School had "around 400 people" and the one at Honesdale High School had "around 500" show up.
"I'm grateful to be part of this experience," Hopkins said. "The students are taking part and are are becoming aware of changes that need to be made."
Something that has taken off from the program is High Five Fridays. It comes from one of Rachel's stories, where she was working with a student named Adam, who had special needs.
"When he was having a good day Rachel would high-five him," Hopkins stated. "It's amazing to see that continue on. The high-five is just another way of passing kindness along."
Hopkins added that the courage people have been showing to share something about themselves others don't know "brought tears to my eyes." She added that also goes for the respect that is shown to the individuals who spoke out.
She stated that if you missed one of the programs, or just want to see it again, there are still some you can go to.
"It doesn't matter what district you're in," she said. "You are more than welcome to go. They are all open to the public."
Darlene Miller, who was also on the committee to bring Rachel's Challenge to the area, agreed with Hopkins about how the program is working.
"I think that people are realizing that showing kindness goes a long way," she said. "We hope to continue doing this throughout the school year so the lessons don't fade."
During Rachel's Challenge, Kennedy talks about five different challenges that are "better if experienced."
"We are discussing what we can do to keep it going after these four programs are all complete," Miller said. "Some business professionals have stated that they are going to bring it to their workplaces as well."
She said that it's "not just about the schools," but that it should be a community effort.
Rachel's Challenge is a program that is worldwide, but it is still branching out. Darrell Scott has spoken at "many places," including schools where students acted like the "McCoys and Hatfields," but "were brought together" because of Rachel's Challenge.
"It's wonderful seeing the students work together," Miller stated.
One of the biggest messages that is being relayed comes from an entry in Rachel's journal. It reads:
"I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
The last two programs will take place tonight at 7 p.m. at the Western Wayne High School and tomorrow at Forest City Regional High School. There is no cost.
You can find out more information by visiting www.rachelschallenge.org.