Rachel’s Challenge comes to Pleasant Valley
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
More than a decade after Rachel Joy Scott was killed at Columbine High School, her message is still resonating with students across the nation. Last month, Pleasant Valley High School students took time out of their school day to take ‘Rachel’s Challenge’ and consider ways kindness and compassion can make a difference in someone’s life.

Student Council advisor Elaine Connell was so moved by a presentation she saw last year by Rachel’s uncle, Larry Scott, she said she knew it was something her kids needed to see.

Rachel’s family began Rachel’s Challenge after discovering the meaning in the writings and drawings she left behind. According to the organization’s website, the programs are based on her life and writings, which were insistent upon showing compassion and making a difference in the lives of others.

After working for several months to arrange an assembly, Connell managed to get Rachel’s Challenge team member Patrick Kassab to Pleasant Valley to share this message with students there.

According to Connell, the high school students gave Kassab a standing ovation. “I don’t know how many kids came up to me and said thank you for getting that here,” she said.

Connell hopes that the message that so moved her can make as much difference in the students’ lives, and several walked away with new goals to create a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.

“One of my many goals this year is to think about others that may not have many friends and feel abandoned,” said seventh grader Leah Johnson. “I will do this by doing the little stuff like saying ‘hey’ to them in the halls and sitting with them at lunch.”

Tenth grader Britton Broper said the program made him strive to be an even nicer person. “Rachel’s Challenge was about being kind to people and not mean,” he said. “She said that a smile to somebody can help them go throughout the day, that they may be having a bad day and they saw that somebody noticed them.”

Some students felt the need to look more closely at eliminating prejudices that could occur. “The reason I’m doing this is because we ALL judge people by the way they look and that is kind of unfair,” said Sarah Lane, a seventh grader. “You never know if they are nice or mean by looking at them. You have to get to know them.”

Connell that for her own part, she has worked to overcome a bit of shyness to spread the goodwill.

“I found myself trying to go out of my way to speak to people who need to hear a kind word” she said.

“We all have those moments when someone comes up to us and says something right when we need to hear it.”

As the year progresses, the student council will continue to plan activities to further Rachel’s Challenge, she said, “to try to keep our chain of kindness and compassion with one another.”
© 2012