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Kindness, Caring and Compassion

Clough Elementary Principal Janice Gallagher watches the Rachel's Challenge Presentation with her students. The presentation was made possible due to a grant from the Mendon-Upton Education Foundation. Donna Shilale photo

The importance of kindness, caring, and compassion was the message delivered to students and parents in the Mendon and Upton community during the October 6 inspirational, yet sometimes emotional presentation, Rachel's Challenge.

Rachel Scott was the first person killed at the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999. Her acts of kindness and compassion for others as well as her writings in her journals inspired her family to start Rachel's Challenge, a motivational and educational program to teach the important values of kindness and compassion to students as well as adults.

Thanks to a grant from the Mendon-Upton Education Foundation (MUEF), as well as the coordination efforts of Physical Education teachers Christine Horn and Dan Hayes, children at the Clough and Memorial Elementary schools were the third group of students in the district able to participate in the Rachel's Challenge program. Prior to the event, students were encouraged to purchase green t-shirts with printed messages such as "KCC (Kindness, Caring and Compassion) Club for Life" to wear to school for the presentation and every child received a green rubber bracelet with a printed "K.C.C. Club".

The 45 minute interactive presentation during the day at both Clough and Memorial challenged the students to start a "chain reaction of kindness," a theory of Scott's where if you do something nice for someone it will start of chain reaction of the same. Interspersed with examples of how Rachel Scott exemplified the ideals of kindness, caring, and compassion were videos testifying how a little kindness can go a long way.

Presenter Matt Salnick asked the students to do five important things in life: choose positive influences, keep a diary or journal, write down their dreams so they can become lifelong goals, use kind words and do little acts of kindness, and accept and include other people. Salnick also explained to the children how they were going to be joining the rest of the students in the district as well as around the country in starting a "chain of kindness" which is a paper chain labeled with good deeds that students "catch" each other doing.

During the evening, the adult community was invited to a presentation similar to the one given at the school but with a different twist. "The message is the same as the one for students, it's just told in a different way," said Salnick about the differences between the two presentations. "Tonight has more of a reality quality, we don't sugar coat it." The one-hour presentation included powerful and sometimes graphic video and audio clips about the Columbine tragedy that was intertwined with first-hand testaments to Rachel Scott's character and her ideas of "changing the world."

Salnick challenged the audience to adopt five goals that mirrored the ones that he asked of the students: eliminate prejudices, dream big and write goals in a journal, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and not cruelty, and start their own chain reaction. Although many tears shed by the audience during the evening presentation, Salnick wanted people to know that the overall message is "uplifting." "Rachel's family has tried to turn a tragedy into something good and inspirational," he said.

Parent and MUEF President Camille Harvey was happy that they were able to bring Rachel's Challenge back to the district for the third time to give a "clear, consistent message" about developing a positive school climate of kindness and compassion. "Rachel is the kind of person you hope your kids will grow up to be. It really puts everything else in life in perspective," said Harvey.


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