A record-setting number of Carlmont High School students have pledged to be kinder to one another in honor of a student killed in the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo.
Rachel Joy Scott was one of 13 Columbine students shot by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on April 20, 1999. Shortly after her death, her father found an essay under her mattress urging people to experiment with small, kind acts; soon after, Rachel’s Challenge, now the most popular assembly in American public high schools, was born.
“She wanted people to start a chain reaction of compassion,” said Lilly Pona, a friend of Scott’s family who brought Rachel’s Challenge to Carlmont High School on Monday. After the assemblies, more than 1,250 of the school’s 2,300 students, along with 80 parents and 50 faculty members, signed a banner accepting the challenge.
Principal Andrea Jenoff said she brought the assembly to Carlmont as part of the high school’s new focus on security, which kicked off in August. Students this year are required to wear their identification cards somewhere visible at all times, to help students and security identify who belongs on campus and who doesn’t.
Carlmont, like other high schools in the county, also contracts with the San Mateo County Probation Department to have a police officer on campus all day.
Carlmont hasn’t seen any specific problems with security, Jenoff said. However, it’s had its share of tragedy; 17-year-old student John Skinner died after jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in November of 2005.
In addition to the students who pledged to take Rachel’s Challenge this week, Carlmont will train 50 students as “Friends of Rachel” to work as catalysts, according to student activities director Jim Kelly. Some volunteered, while others were picked by staff for their ability to influence their peers to be more compassionate.
One of those, student body president Andrea Long, said the challenge dovetails with the goals of Carlmont’s student government.
“Little acts of kindness can make a big impact,” said Long,who admits that it can be difficult to encourage high school students to be nice to one another. “It’s more popular to be cool than to do the right thing.”
Already, Long and others have been organizing assemblies and other activities that provide opportunities for students to open up.
“It’s a slow process, but we’ve seen people talking to each other that wouldn’t normally,” Long said. “When they do, they find out that they’re not as different as they think they are.”
After Carlmont High School students learned this week about “Rachel’s Challenge,” named for Columbine High School shooting victim Rachel Joy Scott, 1,250 students, 80 parents and 50 faculty pledged to do the following:
» Eliminate prejudice; look for the best in every person you meet for the next 30 days.
» Dare to dream, write your goals down and keep a journal.
» Choose positive influences.
» Practice little acts of kindness; they will bring big results.
» Tell your loved ones how much you love them and how much they mean to you.