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LSSD to host Year Two of Rachels Challenge

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Each day 160,000 students do not go to school because they are bullied, teased and harassed. By turning the story of a tragic death at Columbine High School into a mission for change, Rachel's Challenge is helping create safer learning environments and making a worldwide impact, the spokesperson said. Through her death, her family learned that Rachel left a legacy of reaching out to those who were different, who were picked on by others, or who were new at her school. Shortly before her death she wrote,

"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."

As a result of the presentation, hundreds of LSSD Middle School students joined the Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club and have been leading their classmates and teachers to commit targeted acts of kindness that they have documented by more than 1,600 paper chains linked together to start their own chain reaction of kindness.

LSSD accepts Rachels Challenge and is committed to promoting kindness and compassion so its schools remain safe places to learn and live. The school systems goal for the end of Year Two is that it will host a community event celebrating acts of kindness and compassion, and join all their chains together creating a Chain Reaction of Kindness and Compassion.

LSSD officials noted they have already seen that Rachels Challenge has sparked a change in how students treat each other. They are showing more acts of kindness and compassion towards each other. Rachel especially wanted to make sure new students, special needs students and isolated students were reached out to.

This year, fifth grade students will be included in Rachels Challenge. Elementary principals have asked officials how their students can get involved, too. After the fifth graders view the presentation, they will go back to their schools and start their own Kindness and Compassion (KC) Club.

We hope every fifth grader will join the club, then lead their whole school to think about change and how they can commit targeted acts of kindness, said Beth Petty, LSSD Family Resource Center coordinator.

In the elementary program, the focus will not be on the events of Columbine High School or Rachels death; in fact they are not even mentioned. Instead the program is based on Rachels life and her belief that small, deliberate acts of kindness could have a profound and lasting effect on those around us.

Fifth grade KC Club meetings are driven by lessons on the following topics: influence, goal setting, journaling, acceptance and kindness.

Through her writings, her family has based Rachels Challenge on five things that she believed:

1. Look for the best in others eliminate prejudice

2. Dream big set goals keep a journal

3. Choose positive influences

4. Small acts of kindness reap huge results

5. Start a chain reaction of kindness

We dont want to stop at the school level, said Linda Schenk, Wilson County Rachels Challenge coordinator. We need the help of our community as we celebrate a year filled with kindness and compassion.

LSSD will host the Rachels Challenge Parent and Community Event at Winfree-Bryant Middle School on Tuesday evening, Nov. 6.

Last year, over 250 people attended this event. When we hosted the kickoff rally at the Fair, almost 150 people attended. We were thrilled with our attendance, but we want more. For a chain reaction to really work, we need parent and community buy-in. We want every parent of 4th-8th grade LSSD students to attend the event with their child. We want every pastor and youth minister to come and bring their youth groups. We want every leader of every organization in Lebanon to attend and take Rachels beliefs back to the workplace. Wilson County is already the most amazing place to live and work, but we can make it even better, and a program like this will be a positive catalyst for change, Petty said.

Funding for this years program came easily. After hosting last year, the buy-in was already there.

Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen was the first to say he wanted to be involved. The LPD is funding more than one-half of the cost of the program. In addition, Officer PJ Hardy is meeting monthly with the Rachels Challenge FOR Clubs at both Winfree-Bryant and Walter J. Baird Middle Schools. The remainder of the funding came from within LSSD itself through Coordinated School Health, Special Ed, School Aged Child Care and the Family Resource Center.

We have seen the impact this program has on our students and are committed to keeping the chain reaction going, Petty said.

When LSSD Middle School students were surveyed, 46 percent reported feeling more safe at school; 30 percent said they have missed less days of school; 55 percent said they see fewer students getting bullied; 61 percent reported seeing more acts of kindness; 92 percent said the schools need a yearly Rachels Challenge event; and 46 percent of students said they have joined the FOR Club.

When we see this kind of enthusiasm from Middle School students, we know this is a program that we MUST continue, Petty added.

WJB will host two student assemblies on Monday, Nov. 5, at 8:30 and 9:45 a.m. Their FOR Club meeting will be at 1 p.m. WBMS will host its student assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 8:30 a.m., and the FOR Club meeting will also be at 1 p.m. Fifth graders will be bused to WBMS for their student assembly at 9:45 a.m. on Nov. 6. Their KC Club meetings will be held at their own elementary schools. Dates and times have yet to be determined.

The Parent and Community Event is at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6, at WBMS. The program will last approximately one hour. Petty said that RSVPs are not necessary. All of Wilson County is invited to attend.

Like last year, a Kindle Fire will be given away at the end of the event.

For more information about programs, clubs, etc. visit: Portions of this article were taken from the Rachels Challenge website.

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