High School Freshmen Attend Anti-Bullying Event
By JOHN LENTZ
Moore County high school freshmen received a lesson in the prevention of bullying last week when a representative of the Rachel's Challenge Foundation visited Pinecrest High School.
Statistics say that 160,000 students daily nationwide avoid going to school because they are bullied, teased or harassed. To combat that trend, the family of Columbine shooting victim Rachel Scott created "Rachel's Challenge," a series of student empowering programs and strategies designed to "equip students and adults to combat bullying ... by creating a culture of kindness and compassion."
Freshmen classes from North Moore, Union Pines, Pinecrest High School and Pinckney Academy attended the lecture and PowerPoint presentation.
The event was organized by Pinecrest junior Elaine Kearney, who learned about the program at a youth leadership seminar during her sophomore year.
"In May of this year, I was selected to attend the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Seminar to represent my school," Elaine said.
"One of the presentations was by the Rachel's Challenge Foundation, which brought in a speaker to talk about Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine shooting in April 1999. "After Rachel's death, her parents discovered an essay she had written, titled 'My Ethics, My Codes of Life,' in which Rachel discusses the importance of doing little things each day to make other's lives easier. Rachel's short 17 years of life has now impacted 17 million people through events like this worldwide."
One of the key values that the leadership seminar seeks to teach sophomores, Kearney said, is the importance of service in the community. She decided that the Rachel's Challenge program would be a good fit for that requirement.
"It is every attendee's duty to log 100 hours of community service after they return home from the event," she said. "So, my plan was to contract Rachel's Challenge to come to my high school and speak to the freshmen in order to put them on the right track for a great high school career."
Last month, Kearney met with the Moore County Public Education Foundation to request a $2,000 grant to pay for the presentation.
"The next morning, I received word that I had been awarded the grant," she said.
Kearney said the auditorium almost reached capacity for the anti-harassment, anti-teasing event.
"The freshmen from all three high schools along with Pinckney were able to attend, as well as members of the Moore County School Board and the Moore County Public Education Founda-tion," Kearney said. "Our auditorium seats 1,300 students, and it was almost completely full."
Union Pines freshman Cameron Galloway was one of those at the event.
"The Rachel's Challenge program was very inspiring, and it made me think about how important it is to treat other people with the same respect that I want to re-ceive," she said. "I think it made everyone realize that it's a big issue. Although being a victim of bullying may never happen to them, I think it's made everyone more aware and more likely to 'think it out' before saying hurtful things."
Due to a policy maintained by the Rachel's Challenge Foundation, the program presenter's full name was not revealed.
"While I was not able to attend the presentation due to taking the PSAT Wednesday morning, I do know that 'Eric' began the presentation by asking the freshmen if they had lost someone close to them in the last several years," Kearney said. "This was to set the mood for the transition into the tragic morning of the Columbine shooting."
Galloway said the presentation showed her what important things Rachel Scott had done for others.
"I loved the examples that 'Eric' gave about how Rachel helped so many people and changed so many lives," she said. "It made me realize what kind of person she was."
Kearney said that students were encouraged to produce related art following the end of the presentation.
"Students were asked to make a poster related to decreasing bullying after they decided on the program they would like to implement at Pinecrest," she said. "I was very impressed to see the drawings, poems and slogans produced by the students. Furthermore, SGA members walked around to all of the freshmen homerooms and had them sign a banner that says 'I Accept Rachel's Challenge.' The members reported that the students ran up to them, eager to sign and say that they would indeed accept her challenge."
Andrew Lyons, president of the Public Education Foundation of Moore County, called Kearney "an extraordinary young lady" for her work in bringing Rachel's Challenge to Pinecrest.
"The Foundation approved her grant request because of Elaine's vision, enthusiasm and determination to change her community," he said.
Shortly before her death in 1999, Rachel Scott wrote, "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."
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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