Wilton High School starts chain reaction of kindness

In 1999, 17-year-old Rachel Scott was one of 12 students killed during the Columbine High School massacre in Columbine, Colo. In Rachel’s memory, her family created Rachel’s Challenge, a national non-profit organization designed to “motivate and equip people to start and sustain a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”

Dedicated to “creating safe, connected school environments where learning and teaching are maximized” and providing “a continual improvement process for schools designed to awaken the learner in every child,” Rachel’s Challenge came to Wilton, thanks to high school senior Julia Davatzes.

After seeing a Rachel’s Challenge presentation at the World Leadership Congress, Julia said, she knew she wanted to bring it to her school.

“I decided it was something that the Wilton High School student body could not only benefit from, but may be a new way to present the importance of a positive school climate,” said Julia.

“Rachel’s Challenge focuses on the idea that kindness is not the absence of meanness, but rather an active attempt to show compassion for someone. It makes this presentation very different from any other ones we have heard.”

Julia said she was “incredibly moved and empowered” by what she heard during the presentation.

“I couldn’t imagine a better way to start my own ‘chain reaction’ than through bringing this program to our school,” said Julia, who suggested bringing the program to Wilton High School administration last year.

At the beginning of this school year, Julia said, she worked with Associate Principal Richard Sanzo, social worker Kim Zemo and math teacher Cindy Cherico to “figure out exactly how we would implement Rachel’s Challenge in our school.”

On Nov. 12, 2014, a speaker from Rachel’s Challenge made a presentation to the entire student body, said Julia, and then a group of about 70 students went through training to help implement the messages of the program in Wilton High.

“Since then, we have started a club called Friends of Rachel (FOR), in which members will work on different projects devoted to improving our school climate,” said Julia.

“Some ideas we’ve had include a Mix It Up Day, where students sit with peers from different grades at lunch, and painting the stairwells at the high school.”

Julia said she hopes Rachel’s Challenge becomes an “integral part of Wilton High School’s culture and that the FOR Club is able to make a difference in the school climate.”

To learn more about Rachel’s Challenge, visit RachelsChallenge.org.