Rachel’s Challenge visits local elementary schools

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The inspiring story of one Colorado teen made its way to students in Beaufort County this month.

Rachel Scott was a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, and her family strives to keep her memory alive with the organization Rachel’s Challenge. The organization travels to schools across the nation, encouraging kindness and anti-bullying initiatives among students.

“It’s all about passing on kindness, showing kindness,” said Catherine Tahaney, principal of S.W. Snowden Elementary School. The organization presented its message to the school Sept. 21.

Tahaney said there were two presentations — one for the elementary level and another for middle school grades. Each 40-minute presentation was tailored toward the school and the particular age group in attendance.

For elementary grades, the program focuses on concepts such as “isolation, prejudice and bullying in an age-appropriate manner,” according to the Rachel’s Challenge website. This version also focuses on kind words and actions, with Scott as a role model, and doesn’t mention the Columbine shooting.

For older grades, the program explains what happened to Scott, and “will challenge students and staff to show compassion, learn from their mistakes and forgive themselves and others,” the website stated.

Tahaney said S.W. Snowden’s middle school grades learned about the effects of bullying and how students can reach out to one another.

“The students then try to come up with their own challenges,” she said.

One of the more touching moments came when the presenter asked the middle-schoolers to close their eyes and picture a lost loved one who made a difference in their life, according to Tahaney.

“There was a lot of emotion,” Tahaney said.

Rachel’s Challenge has visited Beaufort County before, including a visit to Northside High School last year. This month, the organization also paid a visit to John Small Elementary School on Sept. 19 and Eastern Elementary School on Sept. 16.

As schools are encouraged to continue Scott’s legacy of kindness, Tahaney said S.W. Snowden is already generating ideas for how the students can do just that.

John Small Elementary is also planning a “Chain of Kindness” Oct. 25, featuring kind acts witnessed throughout the halls, according to school counselor Chynna Bonner.

For more information about Rachel’s Challenge, visit rachelschallenge.org.