Meeting the challenge

Look for the best in others. Dream big. Choose positive influences. Speak with kindness. Start your own chain reaction.

Hundreds of Fort Dodge community residents crowded Fort Dodge Senior High Wednesday gymnasium to accept Rachel’s Challenge.

Inspired by Rachel Joy Scott, the first student killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, Rachel’s Challenge has a straightforward mission “to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture of change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”

Rachel’s Challenge includes professional development for school faculty. The program also provides students with the opportunity to form clubs, such as a “Random Acts of Kindness” club or an “Honor Before Victory” athletic club.

Wednesday’s standing-room-only crowd at Senior High shows that the community is serious about embracing this worthy cause. We hope that this momentum continues toward positive change.

Meeting the challenge

Students from Fort Dodge Community School District elementary schools and St. Edmond Catholic Schools were asked to take up Rachel’s Challenge and start a chain reaction.

Colleen Kirk, Rachel’s Challenge presenter, said doing good deeds and treating others kindly spreads to others, like one domino starting a series of falling dominos, a metaphor illustrated in a video.

“That’s a type of chain reaction,” she said. “One thing happens, and it happens to something else, and next thing you know, it’s happened to the whole class. Because that one domino at the very beginning was knocked over, the rest of the dominos were knocked over.”

The four challenges were: Use Kind Words, Do Nice Things, Include Others, and Start Your Own Chain Reaction.

Kirk lead the students in shouting the name of the challenge and shouting, “Oh, yeah.”

Videos were shown illustrating each of the challenges, of Rachel being kind to a boy named Adam who was being bullied, or inviting the new girl at the school to join their group to make her comfortable.

“Because Rachel was kind to Adam, she made a big difference in Adam’s life,” Kirk explained.

Rachel Joy Scott was the first victim in the Columbine High School shooting in Columbine, Colo., in 1999. Rachel’s Challenge, a nationwide program, is based on the writings in her journals, which speak against bullying by advocating inclusion.

“(Rachel) said ‘I have this theory,'” Kirk said. “She had an idea. If one person can go out of their way to show compassion, it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

Presentations continue today at Iowa Central Community College Decker Auditorium with the school district’s middle school students and Wednesday with the district’s senior high students. The students will hear a presentation, and also train with mentors on how to engage in Rachel’s Challenge.

Professional development took place Jan. 9 with staff from both the Fort Dodge Community School District and St. Edmond Catholic Schools.

Rachel’s Challenge culminates Wednesday with a free community event being held at 7 p.m. at Fort Dodge Senior High.

According to Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, Rachel’s Challenge isn’t only intended to inspire school students, but the community in whole.

“We’re really looking at not only our schools as being a focal point. We helped spearhead this, but really it’s about the whole community,” he said Friday. “We want our students to have good role models not only in our schools but in their lives, in the real world.”