Rachel's Challenge, a nationwide effort advocating kindness and inclusion, began another year in the Fort Dodge Community School District Wednesday.
The program, based on the writings of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, was adopted by the FDCSD in January.
The district's elementary school students attended a program at Decker Auditorium at Iowa Central Community College to learn more about the message of Rachel's Challenge from presenter Nasha Snipes.
Rachel’s Challenge presenter Nasha Snipes gets a high five from students leaving the presentation Wednesday afternoon in the Decker Auditorium at Iowa Central Community College.
"Do you know what 'kind' is?" Snipes asked. "Kindness means you say nice things and you do nice things, and you don't expect anything in return. And, you know what? Rachel didn't make a big deal out of being kind. That's just the type of person she was. And because Rachel was so kind, her school was a better place."
Snipes shared a piece of Scott's writing.
"I have a theory," Snipes read, "that if a 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."
Snipes explained to the elementary students that anyone can start a chain reaction of kindness, like a giggle spreading through a quiet classroom or a series of dominos falling.
"Rachel was that first domino," she said. "And you know what, all of you and your teachers and myself, we're the rest of the dominos. So we have to keep the chain reaction continuing."
A chain reaction cannot happen, though, if one or two of the dominos is removed, Snipes said. When Snipes said anyone can start a chain reaction, the students cheered.
"I think you said that means you are important," Snipes said. "Are you important? Yes! You all are important, because you have to keep the chain reaction going."
Snipes presented the five challenges to the students. The first: Use kind words and do kind things.
"You want to be nice to people so they can feel good, because you know how it feels when people are being mean to you," she said.
The second challenge is to accept and include others. Third, to choose positive influences and be a positive influences. These influences can come not only from family, friends and teachers, but from television, video games, books and music.
"Rachel wanted positive influences and she chose positive influences," Snipes said.
The fourth challenge is to set goals and keep a journal. The fifth challenge, Snipes said, is to continue the chain reaction. When Snipes asked the students if they were ready to continue Rachel's Challenge, they all shouted in response, "Yes!"
Rachel's Challenge events continue throughout the week. A Chain Reaction program will be held Thursday at Fort Dodge Senior High for 80 students from both the senior high and St. Edmond Catholic High School. Friday at FDSH, a Chain Reaction program will be held for Fort Dodge Middle School and St. Edmond middle school students.