By: Micaela Michalk and Lauren Wheeler
Small actions, little words, and insignificant gestures…At the end of the day, they may not seem memorable. On the contrary, they could leave an impact on a person’s life. For better or for worse, one can never know how his or her actions will affect others.
Think about how many times one talks to a person, laughs with a person, or becomes angry with a person in just a day. Simple hellos in the lunch line, gossiping with friends, and throwing out a genuine smile are some of the day to day occurrences. However, joyful laughter or bitter tears are substantial consequences of these actions some dismiss. Few people know their potential.
But one girl knew she would affect the world around her.
Rachel Scott, a senior at Columbine High School, was the first victim in the infamous school shooting on April 20, 1999. Two boys, compelled by anger, hate, and prejudices, infiltrated the school and continued on to kill twelve un-suspecting students and one teacher. These boys were fatalities of what Rachel was trying to stop— bullying.
Today, people are dedicating their lives to spread kindness and awareness in memory of Rachel Scott. Rachel was a light in her school and community. By going out of her way to reach out to others, Rachel warmed cold, hidden hearts and set a goal to love and befriend everyone she met. However, her kindness could not stop her fate.
After she died, Rachel’s parents refused to let her death go in vain. Through their misfortune, they were determined to turn a tragedy into something good. The nonprofit organization, Rachel’s Challenge, designed to extend compassion to the world, recently visited Lake’s middle and high schools upon invite.
“I actually heard about the organization from a friend. He has worked in education for about thirty years, and he said it was one of the best programs he ever saw. Several days later the middle school principal, Mr. Reed, asked me if I heard anything about it,” stated Mr. Tobin, the high school principal responsible for welcoming Rachel’s Challenge to Lake Schools.
On the day the organization came, masses of students filed into the gym, unsure of what to expect. However, once the spokesperson, Neil McIntyre, caught their attention with unique beat boxing, the students listened intently to the inspiring tale.
Interspersed throughout real footage of the Columbine school shooting and interviews of those close to Rachel, McIntyre touched on several of Rachel’s philosophies. Most prominent of her beliefs was that people have the power to influence others.
“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.”
To conclude the assembly, McIntyre gave five specific goals for the students and staff to achieve. The steps included:
1. To eliminate prejudice based on outward appearances.
2. Dare to create a dream and set goals.
3. Choose good influences for life.
4. Use kind words when addressing people.
5. Start a chain reaction of caring.
The presentation succeeded in turning people’s hearts and minds to start their own chain reaction. Some were shocked by how far bullying can go, but more so by how far compassion can travel.
“I thought Rachel’s Challenge impacted me a lot just because I want to follow my own dreams. I always try to find the best in people. I thought that the five steps were really inspiring and I hope that it inspires the rest of the school to do good,” said one sophomore, Kaitlyn Hoch. Hoch was not the only one touched by the presentation.
Later that evening, parents and other adults paraded into the gymnasium and took a seat with a desire to hear what their own children had earlier. With the beat boxing toned down, McIntyre once again wowed the audience.
“My initial reaction was how a little act of kindness can really affect so many people. You just never know what you’re doing so if you just treat everyone the way you want to be treated then everyone will be treated right,” stated Ms. May, mother of senior Lauren May.
After the eventful day, students and adults alike wanted to follow Rachel’s example. Some began to spread kindness in their everyday lives. More notably, the Friends of Rachel Club (FOR) began.
Mentor teachers, such as Mr. Six and Miss Valentine, led the group of students but ultimately handed control over to the eager teens.
“My goals are to facilitate a few meetings and to be the backbone of it but really the goal is for the FOR club to start a student involvement and student engagement and student leadership,” shared Mr. Six.
The rallied troops brainstormed goals for the upcoming year. The goals included smaller things such as recognizing peers’ good works throughout the school to larger scale goals, such as getting involved in the community. Hopefully, FOR Club will minimize the concealed bullying that goes on in the school.
“There aren’t really any serious problems,” Mr. Tobin said, “just isolated incidents. Bullying is not as prevalent in Lake as in other schools but it’s still an issue. Facebook especially is a danger because there are bullies who feel more apt to type mean words rather than voicing them.” Looking to be a part of the cause to stop bullying?
FOR is still in the process of recruiting students to join. A bulletin of information for the club hangs in the Commons of Lake High School; everyone is welcome. In the future, FOR has a high hope of having every student distribute compassion among the halls and out into the community.
“We really want the students to take this project and run with it and make it whatever they want to make it, based or things they see and the things they come up with.” Mr. Six stated. Regardless of the FOR club's future, the program has already left a resonating impact.
Rachel’s Challenge brought something to Lake Schools that no one can take away; a warmth of kindness, compassion, and care drifts through the small town.
Following the five simple steps, golden hearts and a feeling of unity have emerged from their shadows. Lake Township can only progress onward from here.