An anti-bullying program born out of the devastation from a high school massacre 15 years ago and 1,500 miles away will hit home Thursday in Columbus.
Rachel's Challenge, named after the first student killed in the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., will be presented from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Solid Rock Church, 6959 Warm Springs Road. The public is invited to attend. Admission is free.
Midland Middle School guidance director Heather Lipp has led the effort to bring Rachel's Challenge here after viewing part of the program several years ago.
"I wanted to do something that would make a positive impact in our school and community," she said.
According to Rachel's Challenge, 160,000 students don't go to school each day because they are bullied, teased or harassed. The program teaches children and adults ways to "combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion," the program's website says.
The program is based on the writings of 17-year-old Rachel Scott. Shortly before she died, she wrote, "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 to go."
Stacey Peacock, regional representative for Rachel's Challenge, lists the following ways the program has been effective since its inception:
18 million people reached worldwide.
Thousands of Friends of Rachel service clubs established in the U.S.
More than 500 unsolicited emails in past three years from students who attended Rachel's Challenge, some stating the program saved their life.
A San Antonio Independent School District survey found 62 percent of its eighth-graders indicated the program sill had a positive impact on how they treated others 18 months after they attended.
In 2011-12 alone, more than 2,200 schools in 47 states and three other countries conducted Rachel Challenge events, and program presenters received an aggregate rating of 9.7 out of 10 and a recommendation rate of 99 percent.
Hipp hopes Rachel's Challenge "will inspire our students and community members to exhibit acts of respect, kindness and compassion toward others. This will positively affect the climate in our schools and communities."
Midland Middle School clubs and other organizations helped raised the $3,600 necessary for four Rachel's Challenge presentations: the public one at Solid Rock Church; an assembly for students in grades 5-6; an assembly for students in grades 7-8; and training for 100 randomly selected students to form a Friends of Rachel Club and continue the anti-bullying campaign. Students from Aaron Cohn Middle School, Britt David Magnet Academy and Midland Academy also will attend the assemblies, Lipp said.
"I am thrilled that all of our hard work has paid off," she said, "and that students and members of our community will be able to experience this powerful presentation."
HOW TO HELP
Midland Middle School is trying to raise an additional $1,400 to buy more training materials to continue the anti-bullying campaign of Rachel's Challenge after the event. To donate, mail a check to Midland Middle School, 6990 Warm Springs Road, Midland, GA 31820. For more information, call the school at 706-569-3673.