Danville Schools take on Rachel’s Challenge

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, March 28, 2024


Thanks to funding provided by Ephraim McDowell Health, the non-profit organization Rachel’s Challenge has been able to tour local middle schools and high schools, including Bate Middle School and Danville High School.

The organization teaches students about Rachel Scott and the challenge that was created in her honor after she was the first victim of the Columbine shooting. Rachel’s family and friends have dedicated themselves to her memory with the challenge of spreading a message of kindness, compassion, and positivity.

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“After she died her father found that she had a goal to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion,” said Rachel’s Challenge speaker JB Braden. “They discovered it in her letters and journals. They were getting letters and emails from people about how she would reach out to people. She believed that if everyone focused on showing kindness and compassion it would change the world.”

The challenge is divided up into five sections. The first challenge is to look into the best in others.

“When you do that, nothing may change about the people around you,” Braden said. “But everything can change with how you deal with people, how you choose to respond to people, how you show up every day. You can control that. If you look for the worst in me today you will probably find it, but you will find the best if you look for that as well.”

The challenge’s second point is to dream big.

“Rachel believed in people, that we can do the impossible. She believed that everyone here has a purpose in life,” Braden said. “Find the courage to believe in yourself. Find the courage to do what may seem impossible to other people.”

The third challenge is to choose positive influences.

“Rachel chose to surround herself with positive people and influences,” Braden said. “But I am going to take it a step further. How about we choose to be a positive influence on the people around us? Ask yourself each day how you are allowing the people around you to influence you. Better yet, ask yourself how you are influencing them. If you choose to show up as a positive influence, you will attract positive influences.”

The fourth step of the challenge is to speak with kindness.

“Think about the words you use. I encourage you to use words that inspire and lift people,” Braden said. “I want you to think about how you talk about yourself. Use words that inspire you, and empower you. Our words have power, they can change our lives or the lives of other people.”

The final challenge is to start a chain reaction of kindness.

“You never know what one act of kindness can do to change someone’s life,” Braden said. “Many schools around the country start chain link projects after hearing Rachel’s challenge. Each link in the chain has an act of kindness written on it that was witnessed by someone else. These chains can reach miles long. The longest recorded was when the entire school district of Orange County, California made a chain 28 miles long. That is thousands and thousands of acts of kindness.”

After hearing about Rachel’s Challenge, both Danville High School and Bate Middle School have started kindness clubs to spread positive influence.

Every three years, Ephraim McDowell Health performs a community health needs assessment with the most recent being in 2023. The assessment found that substance abuse and mental health are two top concerns in the area. In January, the Ephraim McDowell Healthcare Foundation awarded the Ephraim McDowell Health Community Services Department $40,000 to help address the issue.

“After research, we decided we wanted to work with middle school and high school students,” said Ephraim McDowell Health Community Services Project Coordinator Monica Gilbert. “We found Rachel’s Challenge and are very excited for them to be here. We are glad to be able to