Students and teachers at one Lincoln County middle school united earlier this spring to take a stand against bullying.
For the second year in a row, North Lincoln Middle School has participated in Rachel’s Challenge, a nationwide effort to spread compassion and end bullying.
Parents of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of Columbine High School’s tragic 1999 shooting, started the non-profit organization in their 17-year-old daughter’s memory after finding several of her journals and other writings about her desire to change the world with kindness.
Nonprofit officials visited the school in November and talked to students about the purpose of Rachel’s Challenge and encouraged them to keep bullying and other kinds of teasing from continuing to plague school hallways and claim more young lives.
NLMS Guidance Counselor Don Donnellan has organized the effort both years. He also chairs the Friends of Rachel Club (FOR), currently comprised of more than 50 students.
The club works to carry out random acts of kindness, he said.
This year, as part of Rachel’s Challenge, Donnellan inspired faculty and staff to shoot anti-bullying video.
“We thought it would be a great way to boost the morale of the students and bring everyone together,” he said.
Following weekly after-school rehearsals for four weeks, students and teachers filmed the video in late March. The brother of a NLMS teacher shot and edited the project. In the video, students and teachers walk backwards down school hallways and other locations in and around campus while simultaneously lip-synching and dancing to popular, upbeat pop tunes, Donnallen said.
NLMS Principal Chris Kolasinski revealed that the video has become more popular than first anticipated.
In the last couple of months, it’s received more than 6,000 views on YouTube and has been posted to various other social media sites.
As a school administrator, Kolasinski has seen his share of student bullying, whether it be in the form of name-calling, group exclusion or physical harm.
“That (bullying) hurts and affects those students socially and academically,” he said.
He desires that all children at his school “have the best middle school experience possible,” despite challenges along the way.
School officials said Rachel’s Challenge has encouraged students to change others’ lives and carry out the message of a girl who once wrote that she would one day “touch millions of people’s hearts.” There’s no denying that even after her tragic death, Rachel’s dream has been fulfilled in a huge way.
Several parents have also given school officials positive feedback on the video, Donnellan said.
Other kind acts FOR Club members have carried out this past year have included writing appreciation letters to local government, fire and police officials along with handing out coffee and doughnuts to bus drivers.
Students teamed up one day at Denver United Methodist Church to pack lunches for area children. The effort was sponsored by Kids Against Hunger, Donnellan said.
Perhaps, most impressive, is the colorful paper chain that now stretches 3/4 of the way around the school building.
Each individual link in the chain contains a good deed that one student has seen another student doing on campus. Throughout the year, links are added, growing the chain.
Teachers have also played a positive role in encouraging anti-bullying, school officials said.
Each month, they work to break up student cliques and prompt new friendships by rearranging lunchroom seating.
Staff also wear special anti-bullying T-shirts on Fridays. The front of each shirt states, “North Lincoln Middle School accepts Rachel’s Challenge” while the back reads, “Start a chain reaction of kindness.”
Over 400 shirts have been sold to teachers, students, staff and community members, Donnellan said.
For more information on the nonprofit, visit Rachel’sChallenge.org. To view the anti-bullying video, search “NLMS Lip Dub 2013” on YouTube.com.
“This (bullying) is not an issue contained to the walls of North Lincoln Middle School but an issue that stretches across the nation,” Kolasinski said.