Delaware News

Rachel's Challenge builds on district's emphasis on kindness

Program spurred by Columbine victim's writing comes to Delaware this week

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Delaware students and community members will have the opportunity to learn lessons from the first victim of the Columbine shooting in 1999: Rachel Joy Scott.

As part of the Power of One initiative in the Delaware City School District, Rachel's Challenge will come to Delaware on Thursday, Aug. 21.

Dempsey Middle School and Willis Intermediate School will hold assemblies that morning; a program set for 6:30 p.m. at Dempsey is open to anyone in the Delaware community.

The program is sponsored by the Delaware County Foundation as part of a grant given for Power of One programming.

Rachel's Challenge is a national nonprofit organization that encourages students, teachers, parents and members of the community to create a safe and supportive environment for everyone.

Before 17-year-old Scott was killed, she left a series of writings about the power of kindness and reaching out to those who are different.

Drawing inspiration from the writings, her father and stepmother started the national organization to reach out to schools across the country.

Willis Principal Heidi Kegley said the message of Rachel's Challenge is the same message the district is trying to communicate to students through the Power of One.

"We are trying to get our students to recognize the power of one act of kindness," she said. "We want them to feel connected to the school, to the adults at the school, and this event exemplifies those ideas we've been trying to communicate."

The event also encourages schools to start a Friends of Rachel club, which will continue the message throughout the year.

"We won't want this to just be one program; we want it to continue through the year," Kegley said. "The crucial part to this message is that one act of kindness should start a chain reaction of kindness.

"The club will focus on how to welcome new students and target ways to show kindness."

Every student has been given a Power of One band that they are encouraged to wear daily to remind them to be prepared, appropriate, engaged and respectful. "Since we began the Power of One, the number of office referrals has gone down and we have seen our school culture become more positive," Kegley said. "Students are starting to understand that they are supported here."

She said the key to Rachel's Challenge and the Power of One is communication.

"We want to keep a line of communication open between students, families and teachers so that when there is a challenge or concern, we are aware of it so we can overcome the obstacles together," she said.

"We want our students to share things with us, and we want our adults to be ready and willing to assist them."

Kegley said the program has affected a number of schools in a positive way, and added she's excited about its possibilities in the Delaware City School District.

"I've heard from other schools that this program will change our school," she said. "The remarks were glowing. We can tell that it's impacted them in a powerful and positive way, and we're looking forward to it here."

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