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McParland’s year-long Rachel’s Challenge culminates this Friday

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POSTED May 27, 2009 1:55 a.m.
How many random acts of kindness take place in any given day? And how many of them get noticed at all?

For many, that is a challenge.

Rising up to that challenge in October 2008 were the 1,130 students at George McParland Elementary School and School Annex, along with their teachers, office staff, as well as cafeteria and yard duty employees. On Friday, they will have something concrete to give them an idea of how often these acts of kindness take place every single day whether they notice it or not. That day will mark the culmination of the school-wide project, Rachel’s Challenge, which was launched soon after the beginning of the school year.

On the surface, the project is simple.

“What we’ve been doing since October is to start a chain reaction of showing kindness and compassion all year,” explained school office manager Trudy Ceja.

Each act of kindness and compassion was written down on a piece of card measuring about eight inches long and two to four inches wide. Everyone was challenged to keep an eye on every positive random act and to write it down.

“If we notice a parent come into our office and does a simple act of kindness,” for example, that is jotted down, said Ceja.

Employees in the cafeteria had their cards strung up in the dining hall, as did the students in their classrooms, she said.

On Friday, the linked cards in lavender, green, blue, yellow and green colors, will be stretched from the School Annex on London Drive to the main campus on Northgate Drive about two blocks away.

It’s an event that Principal Dale Borgeson can hardly wait to see.

“I’m looking forward to the celebration on Friday because they’ve been building their chains in their classrooms with kind acts that each student had been caught doing,” Borgeson said.

“We started the year with an assembly for all the kids to kind of get them started on Rachel’s Challenge and reinforced them throughout the year. The goal was to have enough links to link together the annex and the main (school) site. Friday will be the actual linking-together of the chains,” he said.

The day will begin with the School Annex students lining up outside their school by 9:30 a.m., “and we’ll do the same at the main site; we’ll be waiting for them,” Borgeson said.

“I don’t know how far their chain starts, but wherever they stop we’ll start adding class by class so the kids can get an idea how long (the chain) is,” he said.

Once the chain is linked up, the students will parade around the field on the main campus while holding on to the colorful cards “to see the full length of it,” Borgeson said.

“It will be exciting to see how long it is because we have a lot students – 1,130 between the two (school) sites,” Ceja said.

Borgeson said Rachel’s Challenge has had a positive impact on just about everyone at McParland School, and not just the students.

“I think it’s made everybody aware of the need to be kind to one another and to acknowledge people when they are. Our office staff – we have our own chain that we’ve been doing – and our yard supervisors have been doing their chains when they see kids doing kind things. Cafeteria has their chain that they developed. It’s pretty pervasive throughout the school,” Borgeson happily announced.

Rachel’s Challenge is the legacy of Rachel Joy Scott, the 17-year-old who was the first victim of the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre, one of the deadliest school shootings in United States history, with 12 students and a teacher killed, along with the two who executed the rampage.

Rachel Scott’s family established Rachel’s Challenge after her death with the mission to “motivate, educate and bring positive change to many young people.”

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