The Graves County School District early in the 2010-11 school year hosted Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim in the Columbine High School shootings. The journals she left behind spoke of her desire to change the world through empathy, kindness, and compassion. The year-long effort to emphasize those principles culminates for the district’s 4,500-plus students Monday, May 16. The approximately 3,100 K-8 students will gather at the Graves County High School football stadium between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. As has been the case throughout the school year, community members are welcome to join in the project.
“May 16th will be a combination of a pep rally, work day, lunch, and celebration of kindness and compassion,” said Wingo Elementary Family Resource director Tana Jones. “Retired Sheriff John Davis will emcee the program. K-8 students will parade with their paper chains, where each link represents an act of kindness. We’ll have hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. We’re excited about all of that, but as we do with any Rachel’s Challenge project, we want to make some real progress.”
She continued, “So, we will assemble care kits of personal items that we’ll send to people who need them. That includes the Red Cross, the Lighthouse Children’s Home, the Mayfield Men’s Shelter, nursing homes, and other, similar care agencies.”
In preparation, each school is charged with collecting a large number of one type of item for the kits. Besides the donations from students and their families, each school gladly welcomes contributions from private citizens and groups. Central Elementary is taking toothbrushes. Cuba is collecting combs. Fancy Farm is soliciting soap. Farmington is gathering sugarless gum. Lowes is laying hands on toothpaste. Sedalia is seeking shampoo. Symsonia is securing washcloths. Wingo is obtaining deodorant. And, Graves County Middle School is collecting any and all of those items through its students.
Graves County High School students have participated in a number of Rachel’s Challenge projects throughout the year as well. They’ve ranged from welcoming new students to school to collecting tens of thousands of soft drink can tabs to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities, according to Youth Services Center director Kaye Horn.
Rachel's Challenge emphasizes five points, which are to eliminate prejudice, dare to dream, choose positive influences, kind words and start a chain reaction.
The Graves County family resource and youth service centers all year long have led students, faculty, staff, and the entire community in putting the points into practice and building on the positive influences, kind words, good deeds, and overall progress.
“Rachel’s Challenge has been a tremendous project from the start,” said Assistant Superintendent/director of pupil personnel Jennifer Smith. “Students in grades 6 through 12 heard Darrell Scott speak when he visited. They, in turn, took the message back to their schools, families, and communities. Schools held special assemblies and formed Kindness and Compassion Clubs.”
She continued, “Academics are very important and, of course, we emphasize them and are fortunate to have had great success with them in Graves County. But we also speak here about helping to develop the whole child and that includes concepts like kindness and compassion. I know it sounds idealistic, but with its message spread across America, the hope of Rachel’s Challenge really is to make the world a better place. That happens by putting into practice and showing other people such simple ideas as respect, appreciation, interest, faith, trust, concern, listening, and even a smile. The idea is that good things happen when a person treats others the way he or she wants to be treated.”
Darrell Scott spoke to a reporter about the program in between presentations in Graves County Sept. 2. “The program is not about Columbine any more than the Anne Frank story is about the Holocaust,” he said. And yet, looming in the background is the tragedy. So, it’s the story of a young girl who had a prophetic sense that her life was going to impact the world. She wrote on the back of her dresser when she was 13 years old and drew an outline of her hands and said, ‘These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts. She also wrote that she was going to die before she was 20 years old as a homicide victim. So, those two things both were written in her diaries. She talked to some of her friends about them and there are just amazing stories around the things she did when she was alive. She reached out to kids at her school.”
Rachel’s Challenge “is a story that has life principles built into it,” Darrell Scott concluded. “My daughter left a challenge for the whole world. She said, ‘I have this theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far kindness can go.”