Rachel’s Challenge was a huge hit in Mason! All students in grades five through eight were in attendance, and over 200 people attended the evening community event. The audience left the auditorium feeling inspired to accept Rachel’s Challenges: 1. Eliminate prejudice by looking for the best in others. 2. Dare to dream, set a goal, keep a journal. 3. Choose your influences – input determines output. 4. Kind words, small acts of kindness = HUGE output. 5. Start a Chain Reaction with family & friends.
Rachel Joy Scott was the first person to die in the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School. Rachel’s character and her codes of ethics were revealed through a multi-media presentation narrated by Cody Hodges. Regarding the first challenge, he highlighted Rachel’s belief that prejudice occurs when people judge others. Regarding judging others, she wrote, “You have not looked for their beauty, their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow…”
The presenter was Cody Hodges, a former Texas Tech quarterback. Attendees were inspired by his personal story of daring to dream. He related his own struggles and explained how writing down goals can play a big part in the likelihood of reaching them. He credits his high school football coach with asking every member of the team to write down their goals. He remembered that as a freshman, he wrote that he wanted to play college football, and he was able to reach that goal, even leading the Red Raiders to the Cotton Bowl!
Cody warned students about the dangers of negative messages in movies, TV shows and video games, and he urged them to seek out positive influences. He also talked about the importance of showing kindness, whether it is holding the door open for someone whose hands are full to refusing to participate in spreading gossip and rumors. He encouraged the students to stand up when something is not right in school, and he challenged the community members to be cognizant of the example they are setting for their children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors.
In the afternoon training session, Cody challenged the students to continue the momentum that began on Wednesday, December 10th, and he gave practical examples as to how to do it. The students at MHS will follow the structure suggested by Rachel’s Challenge, in which teams of students join Chain Reaction Teams which “maintain and increase the momentum of Rachel’s Story by continuing the chain reaction of kindness and compassion.” The Chain Reaction Teams (CRT) will be overseen by the Friends of Rachel Leadership (FOR), a smaller group of students made up of one member from each CRT. The junior high school students will also form Chain Reaction Teams as well as a new student program. In addition to other ideas from Rachel’s Challenge, they will work with the elementary school students on a “chain of kindness.”
The response has been remarkable. Only one day after the program, the school has already received phone calls and e-mails from community members and parents thanking them for the program and relating stories of tearful apologies and “I love you” from children. The reaction from the students has been equally heartfelt. The following are comments from some of the students:
I accepted Rachel’s Challenge and it has opened my eyes to everyday problems. It hadn’t occurred to me how much just one person can change the whole world.
As far as the problems I had been having with people, I have asked for and received forgiveness after this program.
It made us more aware of what a dramatic impact kindness can actually have. I actually did do something that I wouldn’t have done yesterday. Today at lunch in the cafeteria, I sat by someone else, someone who I don’t hang around with.
Everybody is talking about Rachel’s Challenge, and I think this is going to have a big impact here. It already has.
Rachel’s Challenge has a faith based component, in which her faith and what it meant in her life and in the lives of others is held up as an example for all of us. In fact, his church in his hometown of Hereford, Texas, is where Cody Hodges first heard of Rachel’s Challenge. He was in the congregation when Darrell Scott, Rachel’s father, spoke about her Christian faith, and it made a huge impact on the direction of his life.
The students and faculty of Mason High School and Mason Junior High School wish to extend their thanks to the community for the wonderful support this program has received. We are especially grateful to the Mason ISD Education Foundation for the funding for Rachel’s Challenge. The members of this organization are examples of what it means to give of themselves to make someone else’s life better. We are thankful that we’ve been given the chance to examine ourselves, admit our shortcomings, and come together to find ways to make the world a better place. We are excited about what the future holds, and we are looking forward to a new beginning and a never ending “chain of kindness.”