Over 20,000 paper chains of kindness were created at all 34 elementary schools as part of the Rachel's Challenge initiatives district-wide this fall. The Olathe Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors provided funding for the Rachel’s Challenge Program for over 14,000 secondary-level students in the Olathe Public Schools. This program is a district-wide anti-bullying initiative reaching all students in the district’s nine middle schools and four high schools.The Rachel’s Challenge program is named for Rachel Scott, the first victim in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. The program exists to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school and in their personal lives, by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.
In a follow-up activity to the Rachel’s Challenge assemblies, elementary students started their own chain reaction of kindness with acts of kindness recorded on a paper strip. The paper strips were assembled into links for a giant, school-wide chain. Each school displayed their paper chain at a half-time event at the district’s College Boulevard Activity Center (CBAC) in October.
Sheryl Gilliland, Clearwater Creek third grade teacher, shared, “As we started to do our Chains of Kindness links, the students were amazed to see how long our school’s chain grew. It wrapped all the way around our school! But more importantly my class began to look at each other a little differently, as they started to notice that many acts of kindness are all around them every day and the power of just one person can make a difference in someone’s life!”
“We are grateful to the Olathe Public Schools Foundation for all that they do to support our efforts to prepare students for their future,” Superintendent Marlin Berry said. “It’s this partnership that has helped make such positive impacts on our schools.”
The Olathe Public Schools Foundation funded Rachel's Challenge as a result of the OPSF classroom grant program. After several principals applied for grants for funding the program in their school, the OPSF board agreed to provide funding as a district-wide initiative. The Rachel's Challenge program is just one part of the district's multi-level and continued effort to address student bullying in its attendance areas. Involving City of Olathe officials and departments will be one step towards ensuring Olathe continues its heritage of a community built on kindness and compassion for all people.
Teachers, counselors and parents alike are reporting a change in culture in their schools, extracurricular activities and families where students are remembering Rachel, accepting her challenge, and practicing kindness in unbelievable measures. It really has started a chain reaction of kindness.
Here's a sampling of the hundreds of student thank-you notes Foundation board members received about Rachel's Challenge:
Dear Olathe Public Schools Foundation:
Thank you for bringing Rachel's Challenge to the Olathe Schools. It had an impact in my life because I was bullied in 4th and 5th grade. What I noticed after the Rachel's Challenge assembly, it was the bullies who were crying. I think it was a great assembly and it affected me. I will start a chain reaction.
Thank you so much for Rachel's Challenge. It inspired me so much just to be kind to others. A motto that I loves is "I will not be labeled as average." This is a great experience I won't forget. ever. Treating people kind just might start a chain reaction of kindness.
Thank you so much for bringing Rachel's Challenge to Olathe. It's a small but deep impact on me. The impact was like a crack in a sidewalk; you don't think about it much but you still notice it. Sometimes, you just can't ignore it. You should definetely keep Rachel's Challenge because that crack will still be here in the years to come.
Thank you for allowing us to hear about Rachel's Challenge. What got to me and touched me the most was the idea about how every one matters. I got told a lot that I don't matter. In fact, something similar happened that morning. It made me believe that for once I mattered! Thank you again.
I want to say thank-you to the Olathe Schools Foundation for letting us have Rachel's Challenge. I believe it changes many of our lives and mine. I was really touched in many parts of the presentation and I now know that you guys really care.
Thank you guys for Rachel's Challenge. My mom and I accepted your challenge. I learned to accept myself. I did not before. I understand life is so much more. I lost my dad so I stopped and thought about my life and before your challenge I thought I had no meaning to this world. Thank you.