Get Connected. You Might Save a Life

Study after study proves Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) will help our children. They’ll succeed academically in the classroom, socially on the playground, and mentally in their personal wellbeing. The data also shows a dramatic drop in bullying, fighting, vandalism, drug use and other incidents.

Could SEL be our greatest weapon against school shootings and teen suicide? What if a program could show a 123% increase in students who would intervene in a bullying situation? Or 90% reduction in disciplinary referrals and suspensions? Or 7 known school shootings averted? Or 150 suicides averted each year?

For concerned parents, teachers and administrators, those numbers might sound like a gift from heaven. But since 1991, when Rachel’s Challenge began promoting safer, more connected schools, thousands of adults and kids across 43 states have reported a “chain reaction of kindness and compassion” in their school and community.

“We see a school free from harassment, bullying and violence where teachers are free to teach and students are awakened to learn,” says Katie Smith. “We’re attempting to create a culture of compassion where we give the right tools to kids – but then we have to trust the kids to carry it out from the bottom up. And each time, kids prove they have the grace to do it.”

Rachel’s Challenge

Rachel Scott was the first person killed in the Columbine High School shootings. Inspired by stories from her life and writings, a nonprofit was born dedicated to fostering connections between students, faculty and staff.

Using age-appropriate presentations, Rachel’s Challenge tells the story of a young teenager who showed kindness and acceptance to other students during her brief life. They demonstrate the power of deliberately reaching out, in word and action, to others. They show the profound, positive impact students can have by simply paying attention to little things they do and say every day.

Students are given five challenges, based on Rachel’s writings:

  • Look for the best in others
  • Eliminate prejudice in our lives
  • Dream big
  • Choose positive influences
  • Speak with kindness

“Rachel was just a teenager, but she believed her life could impact the world,” says Smith. “She 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’ – and those words can reach people who are unreachable.”

Love Yourself, Then Love Others

The Rachel’s Challenge presentations are designed to build self-awareness. They motivate students to consider where they are personally with the challenges, and reflect on their relationship and impact on people around them. This leads to an understanding that their lives matter and have purpose through service to others. This inspires them to start their own chain reactions of kindness and compassion.

Students realize their words have the power to hurt and to heal. They learn the importance of appreciating others. They’re empowered, knowing they can be the answer by making a difference at their school.

Follow the Evidence

Quantifying a non-event is difficult, so the actual number of averted school shootings, suicides, and bullying incidents due to SEL programs like Rachel’s Challenge is probably much higher than documented events.

One thing is certain, our children’s mental and physical health is at stake. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.4 million students ages 12-17 have skipped school due to bullying; 840,000 high school students skipped because they felt unsafe.

At the 5,000 schools where Rachel’s Challenge has been deployed, 98% of recipients recommend the presentations. An elementary school in Texas reported an 84% reduction in disciplinary referrals. Another in Georgia reported a 13% increase in feelings of respect. Another reported a 282% increase that “School is a Safe Place.”

“We know it works because we’ve received thousands of letters and emails from students whose lives are transformed and even saved. We found 123,000 documented acts of kindness in 12 elementary schools in one year,” says Smith.

“But even if just one life is saved or one future is redeemed, we’re helping to end fear, isolation and harassment in our schools by promoting positive culture and SEL. Thank you for joining us.”

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