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Public invited to 'Rachel's Challenge' presentation

Program inspired by Columbine student changes attitudes, lives

WORLAND - Attitudes and lives are changed in schools that have accepted the message of "Rachel's Challenge." Washakie County School District No. 1 administration and board is hoping to bring that positive change to Worland.

The Worland school board voted last month to bring "Rachel's Challenge to Worland Middle School, Worland High School and the community. A presentation and workshop for 100 students will be at WMS today. A presentation and workshop at WHS will be on Thursday with the community presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday night at WMS Auditorium.

Rachel's Challenge is a movement that for the past several years has been "awakening individual transformation and promoting safer, more connected schools," according to the Rachel's Challenge website.

Rachel's Challenge is inspired by the life of Rachel Joy Scott, the first student in killed in Columbine High School in the school shooting April 20, 1999 According to the Rachel's Challenge website, "Creating a school climate less susceptible to harassment, bullying and violence is possible. For us it started when Rachel Joy Scott was the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999. But that was only the beginning of the story. After her death, many students that Rachel reached out to shared stories with the Scotts 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 that is Rachel's Challenge today.

"In the 19 years since we lost 12 innocent lives, including Rachel, her legacy has touched 25 million people and is the foundation for creating programs that promote a positive climate in K-12 schools. Her vision to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion is the basis for our mission: Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest."


As for what the program offers, according to the website, "Rachel's Challenge programs provide a sustainable, evidence-based framework for positive climate and culture in our schools. Fully implemented, partner schools achieve statistically significant gains in community engagement, faculty/student relationships, leadership potential, and school climate; along with reductions in bullying, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.

Superintendent David Nicholas said "Rachel's Challenge" will begin with a 60-minute all-school presentation at WMS this morning. According to the Rachel's Challenge packet provided to the school, the presentation and follow-up materials will "challenge students and staff to show compassion, learn from their mistakes and forgive themselves and others. Participants examine their own lives in the light of personal challenges - to dream big and start their own chain reaction of kindness and compassion."

In the last essay Rachel Scott ever wrote at Columbine, she said, "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."

Nicholas said there will also be an all-school, 60-minute presentation at WHS on Thursday morning.

In the afternoon at both schools, Rachel's Challenge instructors will work with 100 students. Nicholas said principals and staff will select the students. They have been instructed to select about half of the students prior to the morning presentations and reserve half of the spots for students who are impacted by the morning presentation.

They request a 1 to 10 ratio between students and staff so at least 10 staff members will also participate in the afternoon training.

Nicholas said the afternoon training includes some strategies from Dr. Robert Marzano, a leader in professional and curriculum development.

In 2012 Rachel's Challenge conducted its own research by sending surveys to 20,000 students across North America that were involved in its programs the previous years. Nearly half of the surveys were returned.

The surveys showed a 145 percent positive change in the number of students who participate in school activities, 123 percent increase in the number intervening in bullying situations, 37 percent increase in the number of students who would not bully, 117 percent increase in the number who will reach out to others and a 282 percent increase in the number of students who feel the school is a safe place.


Nicholas heard Rachel Scott's father Darrell make a presentation about Rachel's Challenge at the Wyoming School Board Association meeting in November. "How this family took a tragedy and turned it into a way to help kids is profound."

Nicholas knows that every night is packed with activities and Thursday is no exception, but he encourages parents and other community members to come out Thursday night for the presentation.

"When you walk away from that, I was rethinking everything, about how I act and talk with others. It was impactful," Nicholas said.

"I think this story will touch our Worland community in a profound way," Nicholas said. He added if Worland can meet the challenge of showing compassion, learning from their mistakes and forgiving themselves and others and to dream big and start their own chain reaction of kindness and compassion, "that just makes Worland better, makes our school better, makes all of our lives better."

Nicholas said the district received a significant discount to bring the full presentation to both schools, thanks to a donation by former governor candidate Foster Friess. Friess is a friend of Rachel Scott's father, Darrell Scott.

"You're always leery when you bring things in, steal instructional time away from the kids and the staff. You hope it's valuable. My trustees think it's worth doing and I think it's worth doing. This was good enough to disrupt our normal schedules," Nicholas said.

There is no charge for Thursday night's presentation.

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