BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — TOWN OF LOCKPORT — Rachel’s Challenge is returning to the Lockport area.
The nationally known character education program is coming to town this week, courtesy of DeSales Catholic School. The community is invited to a 7 p.m. assembly Thursday, at the Palace Theatre on East Avenue. The program is free and open to all who want to attend.
Rachel’s Challenge says it aims to equip and inspire individuals to replace acts of violence, bullying and negativity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion. That mission is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first victim of the Columbine school shootings in 1999. Scott was well known for reaching out to people through kind acts, something Rachel’s Challenge tries to encourage in students now.
The goal can be summed up in four words. Start a chain reaction.
“That was Rachel’s message, you can touch one person by doing an act of kindness,” said Jennifer Cohen, a counselor at DeSales. “And that can move on to someone else, then someone else.”
Before the community event, DeSales students will have their assemblies during the school day. In the afternoon, seventh- and eighth-grade students will participate in leadership training and younger students will gather to work on community outreach projects. The assemblies are age-appropriate, the middle school version of the program is called Rachel’s Impact, while the elementary school version is called Linked Up.
Like the regular, high school program, the community event introduces Rachel and tells her inspiring story by using examples from her life and writings to show the impact a person can have on others. The program demonstrates the power of deliberately reaching out to others to start what Scott called “a chain reaction” of kindness and compassion.
Each school assembly closes with four real-world challenges for the students. For example, the four elementary challenges include using kind words, doing kind things, include others and start your own chain reaction.
“I like the impact of it, because it gives the kids concrete challenges,” Ellen Roth, director of marketing and admissions at DeSales. “You can actually see these kids figure out what we can do to keep Rachel’s message going.”
There is an opportunity for students and staff to sign a banner making a commitment to accept the challenges put forth in the program. This banner will be prominently displayed at DeSales throughout the school year.
DeSales students are also doing a community service project. The elementary kids are making handmade ornaments to be put on Christmas trees, which will be donated to St. John’s Outreach Center. They are also making blankets for Lighthouse Women’s Shelter and Compass House in Buffalo.
Rachel’s Challenge has visited 22,000 schools, including Newfane and Royalton-Hartland.
, in three different countries. Following each visit, schools can create their own Friends of Rachel club, which is a follow-up to the program.IF YOU GO WHAT: Rachel's Challenge, a character education program that stresses replacing bullying and violence with kindness and compassion WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday WHERE: The Palace Theatre, 2 East Ave. WHO: The program is free and open to all Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.