CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. — Students from both Chappaqua middle schools joined Friday afternoon to parade a multicolored paper chain, with each link representing an act of kindness witnessed this year at school.
The paper chain project is a literal take on Rachel’s Challenge, which encourages people to start a “chain reaction of kindness.” The challenge is named for Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999. Her diaries became the foundation of a school program.
The chain is the work of clubs started at both Robert E. Bell and Seven Bridges middle schools last fall as a result of an assembly about Rachel’s Challenge. The clubs, called Friends of Rachel, met regularly throughout the school year to perform acts of kindness.
“The impact of the assembly was profound,” said Bell guidance counselor Elsa Rappaport. “Students were clearly affected and inspired to make changes in the way they treat others. The number of students who volunteered for the training greatly outnumbered the maximum amount we could accommodate. This showed us that students wanted to get involved and expressed genuine interest in continuing to discuss the topic.”
About 130 students from all four grades at Bell and Seven Bridges middle schools are in the Friends of Rachel clubs. Ideas brainstormed throughout the year include kindness letters, chain links with expressions or examples of acts of kindness, plans for a rally at the end of the year, classroom visits to role-play possible techniques for sticking up for and supporting others, and student-led discussions.
Sample links from Friday’s parade include:
• “I helped a person feel included.”
• “I gave my ‘enemy’ a donut for her birthday. Now we are friends.”
• “I helped my brother with his homework.”
• “I found someone’s lost pencil case and I gave it to them.”
• “I let smaller kids score on me when I am in a goal.”