By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Fear of bullying causes 160,000 students to skip school every day. This sobering fact is shared on the web site for Rachel’s Challenge – a national anti-bullying crusade that seeks to inform communities of what kids face in today’s society and to encourage kids to be kinder and more supportive of one another.
A collaborative effort from many community groups, including the Gadsden Rotary Club, Gadsden City Schools 21st Century Community Education program, United Way, the Barrie Center and others, will bring Rachel’s Challenge to Convention Hall at 6 p.m. Oct. 9.
Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School in Colorado during the April 20, 1999 shooting rampage by two of the school’s students.
After her death, according to the web site, her father and stepmother found journals and have used her writings and drawings to spread a message she left behind: “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 can go.”
The program strives to empower kids to start that chain reaction of compassion and kindness, and to be more available to each other, Barrie Center Executive Director Patricia Falcon said.
The event is free, Falcon said, and organizers ask church and school groups to encourage students to attend.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the community to understand the kind of things our kids face today,” Falcon said. She said her daughter has seen the program during a Student Government Association conference, and described it as “life changing.”
After the program is over, she said, interested students will be invited to stay and talk to program presenters about organizing a “Friends of Rachel” (FOR) group at their own schools or church groups or incorporating the message of Rachel’s challenge in their churches or schools.