Students Creating A ‘Culture of Kindness’

Even the smallest act of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s life, a message students in Marshall County Schools are trying to promote.

To spread this message not just school-wide but to the surrounding community, the school district will host representatives of Rachel’s Challenge, a national non-profit organization that encourages teachers and students to cultivate a culture of kindness in schools to combat bullying and feelings of isolation among students. The organization commemorates Rachel Scott, the first student to be killed in the Columbine High School shooting who was known for being compassionate and willing to reach out to her fellow students.

County students in grades 6-12 will hear a presentation on Rachel Scott and her legacy Nov. 20 in John Marshall High School’s Performing Arts Center. In addition, any community member is invited to hear the program again at 6:30 p.m. that night at the center to learn more about the sometimes devastating effects of bullying.

“It’s very hard to watch the assembly, because it’s so heartfelt,” Sherrard Middle School Principal Cassandra Porter, who organized the event with Assistant Superintendent Corey Murphy, said. “It really makes you think about what happens when kids are bullied and picked on.”

Representatives from the program will also train about 20 kids from Moundsville and Sherrard Middle and Cameron and John Marshall High Schools to continue the Friends of Rachel Club in the schools.

”Rachel’s Challenge is one of the most powerful student assemblies in the U.S.,” Murphy said. ”It sends a strong message to students about how words and actions can affect people. We’re hoping our students grasp the message and run with it in our schools.”

Students from Sherrard Middle School have already begun to spread the message of kindness through their own Rachel’s Challenge Club. According to Porter, students have been writing down any acts of kindness they witness on pieces of paper, which they link together to make a chain. She said the paper chain is displayed around the school, noting it already spans a hallway after only a week of starting the project. The club also writes birthday cards for every students’ birthday throughout the year and has as a welcoming committee for any new student who comes into school.

”Since we’ve had this program it’s a completely different culture at the school,” Porter said. ”Kids want to help kids now. Students will come up to us and say, ‘We saw someone pick on this girl and we didn’t like it.’ It’s made a big impact.”