Rachel’s Challenge:  A “chain reaction of kindness” celebrated with outdoor rock concert

Rachel's Challenge
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June 8, 2012
by Jason Sclafani and Elissa Rappaport

On Friday, June 8 at 3:00 p.m., students from Bell and Seven Bridges will meet at Pizza Station, on the corner of Woodburn and South Greeley, and float “a humongous paper chain”—with each link representing an act of kindness by students at the two schools over the past year—to the train station green. There, for the next hour, middle school and Greeley student rock bands will play and jam together at the 9th Annual Train Station Concert.

Rachel’s Challenge is named after Rachel Scott, the first person killed at Columbine High School in April of 1999.  Her diaries became the foundation of a school program that encourages people to start a “chain reaction of kindness.”  A few people reported that they’d witnessed the impact of the program in other schools and suggested it for the Chappaqua middle schools.  With support from the Chappaqua Schools Foundation, Rachel’s Challenge was brought to Bell and Seven Bridges in October of 2011. The day of the Rachel’s Challenge presentation, every single student, teacher, and individual present seemed to have an overwhelming feeling to take action to make a difference within our school community.

Some teachers have incorporated Rachel’s Challenge messages into their lesson plans.  For example, one teacher took on an Action Research Project this year that focused on the social and emotional development of students and what they can do to make a difference within their school community.  The teacher used quotes and movie clips, which the students interpreted and discussed connections to their life. The Rachel’s Challenge program has increased the communication between students and the guidance department about ways in which students can help their peers feel more included within the school environment.  Since the assembly, a number of students have approached classmates who were sitting by themselves during lunch to invite them to eat with them.

A group of about 130 interested students from all four grades and both schools are still working toward implementing various ideas for promoting kindness.  Some of these ideas include kindness letters, the chain links with expressions or examples of acts of kindness that the students are bringing to the train station concert on June 2, plans for a rally at the end of the year, classroom visits to role-play possible techniques that will assist in sticking up for and supporting others, and student-led discussions. 

Jason Sclafani is a guidance counselor at Bell; Elissa Rappaport is a guidance counselor at Seven Bridges.

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