By Oswego County BOCES
For the second year, Rachel’s Challenge was brought to the Fulton Junior High School for three presentations.
Rachel’s Challenge is a school assembly program that combines footage of the Columbine High School shooting with Rachel Scott’s inspiring drawings and writings in a campaign to quell bullying. Scott was among the students killed during the 1999 shooting in Colorado.
The presentation for eighth-graders focused on five new challenges for students.
Mike Walker of Rachel’s Challenge presented these guiding principles: leave a legacy of kindness, show compassion, practice pre-acceptance, learn from mistakes and forgive yourself and others.
The presentation didn’t end there. Later in the afternoon, 100 students were chosen for the Friends of Rachel Club. The FOR Club is a place for students to feel safe and comfortable. Students were chosen based on staff recommendations and student interest.
FOR Club is an extension of Rachel’s Challenge, and provides the opportunity to continue on with the message of kindness and compassion throughout the school year. Eighth grade English teacher Emily Paglia is the FOR Club Advisor.
As a result of last year’s program, students involved in FOR Club helped the SPCA and talked about animal cruelty, sent chickens and goats to third world countries, raised funds during Fall Fest and visited Seneca Hill Manor, delivering Christmas cards and valentines.
Principal Ryan Lanigan said that he’s seen the school’s culture change in a positive way since introducing Rachel’s Challenge last year. “This is their club,” said Lanigan.“We want students who want to take ownership to be a part of the decision making process.”
At the beginning of the one and a half hour afternoon session, Walker asked students how the presentation impacted them. A handful of students shared their stories on how they’ve overcome adversity. The message beneath each personal account was to find your true friends and that things will get better.
The Friends of Rachel Club students broke up into small groups to brainstorm project ideas for the upcoming year. Collectively it was decided that the first project would be to use the stairwells as a blank canvas for tracing student’s hands and filling them with kind words.