More than 80 Boardman Center Middle School students met in the auditorium on Dec. 4 to take the first step in forming a club as part of a nationwide program called Rachel's Challenge. The program is designed to create a more caring and respectful school atmosphere where students support one another in a positive light.
Event speaker, Jimmy "JB" Braden said Rachel's Challenge began in 1999 with a 17-year-old girl named Rachel Scott. She was the first one killed at Columbine High School when a shooter opened fire on students in the school. While it was a trying and grieving time for Rachel's parents, they honored her life by forming an organization hoping to change schools across the nation for the better.
Rachel had always been known as someone who cared. From an early age she developed a passion for treating people with kindness and caring. She kept a diary and wrote many positive things. After her untimely death, her parents, Darrell and Sandy Scott, went through her diary and the message she left was the fuel to start an organization that would carry her message to hundreds of schools each year.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Boardman Center Middle School fifth-grader Katie Demetrios volunteered to write down problems that students feel need addressed during a special Rachel’s Challenge meeting at the school on Dec. 4.
Shortly before her passing, Rachel had written, "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."
Today Rachel's Challenge has a small army of presenters who spend six months each year visiting schools across North America to set up clubs that can make a difference in students' lives.
As for the program at BCMS, Principal Randy Ebie said the idea came from Boardman Police Officer Chuck Hillman. He heard about the program over the summer and had done some research into it. He presented the idea to Ebie, who liked what he saw.
"A lot of it tied into our mentorship program and other anti-bullying efforts," Ebie said. "We've created little communities within our building. This is the next step in empowering the students. We took a delegation of educators to Rocky River High School to check it out."
They liked what they saw and set up the program for last Tuesday. Jimmy "JB" Braden from Alabama traveled to BCMS to set up what will become a permanent program in the school.
Students involved covered all four grade levels at the middle school, which is something Braden said is needed.
"You want a cross section of students to be able to keep the program going into future years," Braden said.
The assembly started with students watching a movie on Rachel's life. Following the movie, Braden gave a presentation that included how to handle situations by using positive reinforcement.
Braden told students, "Did you know that everyday 160,000 students skip school to avoid being picked on?"
He went on to show how one student could interrupt a situation and turn things around. A brief movie showed a bully in the hallway who knocked a pile of books out of another students hands while calling him a loser. Another student saw it happened and walked over to help the victim by saying, "Are you alright?" That moment of caring showed the victim that some do care.
Braden then asked students what they thought were the biggest problems at BCMS. Fifth-grader Katie Demetrios volunteered to write them down. The students came up with stop the drama, stop the rumors, stop the racism, stop excluding people, stop gossip, stop pre-judging, stop the cliques, and stand up don't just stand by.
That was the beginning of the formation of a F.O.R. Club, which stands for Friends Of Rachel. The club would be proactive in dealing with the listed problems facing the students. Over the next seven days, those who want to be members of the F.O.R. Club were asked to sign a Rachel's Challenge banner that will hang in the school hallway.
Braden said the club is the start to something that will spread through the school and the community. With fifth-graders through eighth-graders involved, the club will be able to continue through the coming years.
"The message was simple and sincere," Ebie said. "This program gives concrete examples of being a good person and being respectful of others."