The Edmond Sun

September 5, 2013

Ida Freeman students start a chain reaction

IMPACT grant brings Rachel’s Challenge back to Edmond

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Ida Freeman Elementary students were the first elementary students in the district to hear the story of Rachel Joy Scott, a 17-year-old who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

As young adults travel across the United States, they share the story of a young girl in programs based on the writings and life of Rachel and her legacy of reaching out to those who were different, who were picked on by others or who were new at her school.

Shortly before her death she wrote, “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. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

Ida Freeman’s new principal, Keith Pautler said, “For us, character education is at the forefront and this is another tool to celebrate student success in interacting with each other.”

Colleen Kirk visited the students Thursday morning and presented the story of Rachel as a child in elementary school and how she changed those around her by extending them kindness and compassion. Through short film clips, Rachel’s simple, yet profound philosophy shows how to defuse bullying, disrespect and prejudice as it brings hope where there is isolation and despair.

Kirk said her family is friends with Rachel’s family, and she has been sharing the story of Rachel and her writings for four years.

“Each program caters to an age demographic,” Kirk said. “Why would I not do this? It gives us an opportunity to create and sustain a movement of kindness and compassion.”

As Kirk visited with the students she shared the four tenants of Rachel’s Challenge for elementary children. They are: Use kind words, do nice things, include others and start your own chain reaction.

After each topic was named the students chimed in, “Oh, yeah!”

Kirk told them they could start a chain reaction by writing something they are going to do for someone else on a piece of paper and with glue start a paper chain.

All 16 elementary schools, the three high schools and Boulevard Academy will be receiving the impact of Rachel’s life in school assemblies during September. Four assemblies were scheduled in elementary schools this week.

By turning the story of a tragic death at Columbine High School into a mission for change, Rachel’s Challenge is helping create safer learning environments, Kirk said.

Middle school students were able to participate in the Rachel’s Challenge program last year through a $7,500 grant from Ken and Gae Rees.

Elementary and high school students will be in age appropriate assemblies throughout September through a $50,000 IMPACT grant from Cox Connects Foundation. The grant is the first presented and funded through donations by Cox employees.

Orvis Risner students participated in the Rachel’s Challenge program Thursday afternoon, and students at Russell Dougherty Elementary and Clegern Elementary received the challenge Friday.