CHAIN REACTION: Port Isabel schools get behind Rachel’s Challenge - Brownsville Herald: Local News

CHAIN REACTION: Port Isabel schools get behind Rachel’s Challenge

By GARY LONG Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2019 9:00 pm

The Point Isabel school district on Wednesday launched Rachel’s Challenge, aiming to start a chain reaction of kindness in schools across the district and throughout the Port Isabel community.

Rachel’s Challenge is a national movement to create safe schools started by the father of the first victim of what was then the worst school shooting on record, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. Twelve students and one teacher died. Rachel Scott, who was 16, was the first.

In the years since a national movement has grown up based on observations in the six diaries she left behind.

“It’s a great message for our kids to open their eyes to how much impact we have on each other’s lives,” parent Denise Grienier said. “It was touching for me, especially with how things have gotten so ugly.”

Grienier attended a presentation Wednesday afternoon in the Port Isabel High School auditorium similar to assemblies held earlier in the day for elementary, junior high and high school students. The basic premise was that the best way to eliminate hatred and prejudice is to look for the best in others.

“If we would just do that we could eliminate all kinds of prejudice. … People are really good at pre-judging each other, but what if we, all 50 of us here in this room, looked for the best in each other,” Cody Hodges, presenter from the Rachel’s Challenge organization, asked. “When you and I look for the best in someone our attitude toward that person is going to change 100 percent of the time.”

After her death, many students that Rachel knew shared stories with her family about the profound impact her simple acts of kindness had on their lives, even preventing one young man for taking his own life. They soon realized the transformational effect of Rachel’s story and started the non-profit organization Rachel’s Challenge.

Her vision to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion is the basis for the organization’s mission: “Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect and where learning and teaching are awakened,” according to the organization’s website.

Rachel’s Challenge advocates five basic behaviors to achieve this mission:

>> Look for the best in others

>> Dream big

>> Choose positive influences

>> Speak with kindness

>> Start your own chain reaction

Point Isabel Superintendent Teri Alarcon said the process of starting a chain reaction of kindness would begin right away. She said schools would start making paper chains where each link is an act of kindness written out.

“We want them to be very intentional, very purposeful where our students are cognizant of being part of this chain reaction of kindness, from kindergarten to high schools and adults as well. When we put up these chains they’re going to serve as a constant reminder,” she said.

“We want this to spread like wildfire, not only in our campuses but in our community as well.”

Friends of Rachel clubs, FOR clubs for short, are forming to jump start the process, she said.

Peter Allonzo, an eighth-grader at Port Isabel Junior High, is part of the FOR club there and an enthusiastic supporter of the Rachel’s Challenge concept.

“It’s a good challenge because it’s good to be kind to others,” he said.

Rachelschallenge.org

glong@brownsvilleherald.com