About 125 Azalea Middle School students wrote positive messages such as “You’re awesome!” on Post-It Notes Nov. 16 and then decorated school lockers with them during a Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club meeting.
“We’re focusing on the things that lead to bullying: low self-esteem, lack of purpose … and that each student has a unique gift to contribute,” FOR Club lead mentor Katherine Johnson said. “Our differences are what make us unique, and we need our differences to make a difference. The goal is to continue to reinforce the message of Rachel’s Challenge.”
FOR Club is made up of parents and students who meet once a week to propel a program inspired by Rachel Joy Scott, killed in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. The program teaches people to combat bullying and create a culture of kindness and compassion, according to its website, by going through a training and then teaching their peers how to recognize self-worth in others.
Azalea students, grades six through eight, were trained in October when Rachel’s Challenge volunteers came to the school and gave a presentation.
At Wednesday’s Brookings-Harbor School Board meeting, Azalea Middle School Principal Sheryl Lipski, students and Johnson gave a presentation about Rachel’s Challenge and FOR Club.
All of them talked about how the program has made a difference and what they like about it.
“It’s a great way to make people feel good about themselves,” eighth grader Luka Frazier said Friday. “I like the sticky notes. It makes me feel good, and it makes our school a better place. It makes kids more positive, and it changes the way they act toward people.”
Seventh grader Travis Chadwick shared a similar view.
“I joined because I wanted to help people less positive than me. Plus, I wanted to be a positive motivator,” Chadwick said Friday. “I like everyone coming together to make a chain reaction.”
In addition to writing encouraging messages, students in the club have sent uplifting text messages to fellow students and want to “bomb” Facebook with positive messages.
“Their thought is, the more we reinforce the pledge (a pledge to accept Rachel’s Challenge) we all took, the better it will integrate with all kids,” Johnson said.
Soon, students will also start participating in service projects. Among other things, they want to help the South Coast Humane Society, send candy canes to community members and sponsor a pep rally in the spring.
When asked how it is going so far, Johnson had a one-word answer: “Amazing.”
“The testimony of how well it’s going is the look in their eyes, and their excitement over this,” Johnson said. “They just love being here.”