Rachel's Challenge Comes to Grand Island Schools

Born out of Columbine, the program aims to foster kindness among students and the community.



It's been more than ten years since the shooting spree that took place at Columbine High School in Colorado , but for most of us, the memory of that tragic event will never fade. When tragedies occur, usually only sorrow and regret take place, but at times there is some good that grows from those negative events. On October 25, 2010, see how a tragedy that affected an entire country is touching the lives of students in Grand Island , New York .  On this day, Grand Island High School and Veronica E. Connor Middle School students will be attending Rachel’s Challenge – a program that stems from Columbine to discourage future violence, suicides and bullying among young students. 


Rachel’s Challenge is the largest school assembly program in the country. It is based on the life of Rachel Scott, the first person killed during the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999. Since her death, her parents have tried to reach out to students all over the country. Her acts of kindness and compassion, coupled with the contents of her six diaries, have become the foundation for this powerful program that encourages each person to start a chain reaction of kindness. 


Grand Island High School assistant principal Jerry Parisi explained, "The program was created to encourage students to be leaders in their communities and leaders in spreading kindness and compassion.  When our students understand the affects small acts of kindness can make, our community as a whole will benefit.  We’ve been told it is a powerful, moving presentation and are eager for our students to attend.”  Sponsored by the Grand Island High School PTSA, Rachel’s Challenge does not end with the assembly.  In an effort to participate in this nation-wide chain reaction, approximately 100 Grand Island students will take part in the “Friends of Rachel’s” club.  A training session will be held after school for these students as they continue to keep the positive culture change alive on Grand Island all year.


Rachel’s Challenge supports Grand Island Central School District ’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) program.  PBIS is a district-wide initiative that was implemented in 2008 and assists staff to teach and promote positive behavior in all students.  “We have seen a significant improvement in student behaviors as a result of our total district PBIS program.  We continue to try and be proactive in finding ways to create more responsible students of whom our parents and community will be proud,” says Robert Christmann, superintendent of Grand Island Central School District .


Bullying, violence and suicide among our young students have been the topics all too often in recent news headlines.  Area schools understand there is a need to educate their students and communities and are jumping on board with this program.  Rachel’s Challenge is one component of a comprehensive anti-bullying and violence prevention program offered through the Student Support Services Division at Erie 1 BOCES.  According to Kate Huber, Erie 1 BOCES coordinator, "No one single strategy will “solve” the bullying problem.  It takes everybody: teachers, parents, students and the community, working together to address this issue.  Rachel’s Challenge is a great platform on which to begin creating a positive climate and culture in school buildings and in the community."  In addition to Grand Island , Huber says Alden Central School District , Cleveland Hill High School , Depew High School , Maryvale Union Free School District and Williamsville Central School District will also be presenting Rachel’s Challenge through the Erie1 BOCES.


A free evening community presentation will also be held on Monday, October 25, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. in the Grand Island High School auditorium and all Grand Island residents are welcome and encouraged to attend.  Further information regarding Rachel’s Challenge can be found by visiting www.rachelschallenge.org.