An anti-bullying program will be presented at Coolidge Intermediate School and Ferndale Middle School today as well as a free program available to parents this evening.
Ferndale Youth Assistance and The David Michael Smith Foundation are sponsoring the program, which is called "Rachel's Challenge." It is named after Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first student killed in the Columbine High School tragedy on April 20, 1999.
After the tragedy, Rachel's father Darrell began to use writings and drawings from his daughter's diaries to illustrate the need for a kinder, more compassionate nation.
According to the program's web site, Rachel wrote shortly before her death: "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."
Darrell Scott and more than 30 presenters now travel nationwide honoring Rachel’s life by sharing her legacy of reaching out to those who were new at school, different or picked on by others.
"The message is sharing kindness and compassion," said Anne Kelly, Family Education chairperson for Ferndale Youth Assistance.
Kelly said she has heard the program is "incredibly powerful."
"I just think that it's an important message for our society and certainly we want to start as young as possible with kids and tell them how important it is to support one another instead of being hurtful to one another, and what can happen if students feel like they're kind of isolated or made to feel badly about themselves," she said. "That the effects can be devastating to a community."
A follow-up curriculum will be taught to the students throughout the school year.
A free community workshop for adults will also be offered as part of the program at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Ferndale High School auditorium.
The workshop tonight is more geared toward parents, however older middle school to high school students could also attend, Kelly said. The presentation is not appropriate for younger students.
Kelly said it's important for schools, parents and the entire community to work as a team to combat bullying.
"It's something that has to be maintained for schools, for families, for communities to see a difference and it's something that we all need to support," she said. "We all need to work together as a team."
Find more information on tonight's community workshop here. For more information on the program, visit www.rachelschallenge.org.