held an assembly for parents of district children and members of the community at on Thursday, Sept. 6, as part of its participation in the Rachel's Challenge program. The assembly was a culmination of several assemblies at all three district schools on Sept. 5 and 6 as an effort to encourage positive social behavior and prevent bullying.
Rachel's Challenge is named after Rachel Joy Scott, one of the students killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. She was known for being a positive influence in her school and community, and she left behind several journals and essays in which she wrote about how she wanted to change the world. The organization was started by Scott's parents after her death to quell school violence and bullying by spreading a message inspired by her actions and writings to encourage kindness and compassion in others.
Mokena Junior High Principal Mike Rolinitis said the school first participated in Rachel's Challenge in the spring of 2011, but that this was the first time assemblies were held in all three schools. He said the program wasn't a reaction to any sort of bullying epidemic in the district, but rather an effort to improve the social environment of the schools and the community.
"What we're trying to do is kind of re-frame things, because we really haven't had an overarching bullying problem," Rolinitis said. "What we just want to do is have everyone be nicer to each other. We want to frame it as a positive, and all of Rachel's challenges are very positive. They want you to go do good things, talk positively about people."
Each assembly presented the audience with a list of challenges to motivate them to be a positive influence on the people around them. The parent assembly involved several videos about Rachel Scott and the Columbine shooting, as well as a speech by Rachel's Challenge presenter Joseph Manning, 28, who called for the community to eliminate prejudice, dream big, speak with kindness, and start a positive chain reaction with their actions. Manning said the challenges and presentations are adjusted for each grade level or age group, and that the elementary presentation didn't touch upon the Columbine shooting at all.
"We have several presentations that have been created based on the ages," Manning said. "So the elementary one, we don't even talk about what happened with Rachel, just, you know, that she was a kind girl and what she's done. And then each one shows a little bit more about what happened when they get older."
Manning also led training sessions for the Friends of Rachel club, which teaches students, staff, and faculty to create a positive change.
"The FOR Club, basically, it shows them how they can be Rachel, how they can spread kindness and compassion around this school, the community, even the world," Manning said. "To be a Rachel in this school. To help make it a better place."
Rolinitis said he was excited by the enthusiasm students showed for the program and that the district planned to continue Rachel's Challenge as a yearly program in each school.
"I think the kids walked out of the assemblies today ready to get started," Rolinitis said. "We had eighty students in our FOR group training, and we expect a lot more. We want them to be a big part of things. I also expect, now that it's in all three buildings, a nice transition from one to the next. That consistency going through the three buildings with the same thing, I think is going to mean a lot for the schools."
Two Ways to Stay Connected to Mokena Patch:
- Subscribe to our newsletters to have headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox.
- "Like" our Facebook page for updates throughout the day.