By Amanda Amsel
Westland High School is joining forces with a national organization to create a positive school environment.
The school recently collaborated with Rachel’s Challenge to educate students on Rachel’s story and reduce the risk of bullying, harassment and violence.
“Rachel’s Challenge is based on an essay written by Rachel Joyce Scott, the first victim of Columbine High School,” said Joshua Cherup, the school counselor for Westland High School.
“In an essay her parents found after her death, she laid out a code of life that aimed to spread compassion and create positivity. We wanted to spread that message to the kids here.”
Westland High School hosted presentations throughout the day and had Rachel’s Challenge speaker Chris Mowery spread Rachel’s message to the students and the community.
The school also started a club called Friends of Rachel’s Club and has had over 200 students already join.
“We were hoping to get 100 students, so we were thrilled with the enthusiasm by our students,” Cherup said.
The club is an off shoot of Rachel’s Challenge and the organization gives the school the tools to start the club, and then it is up to Westland High School to do kind acts that evoke Rachel’s code of life of creating positivity. A few of the acts the students hope to do right away include writing letters of appreciation to those who have helped them through the years and writing welcome letters to new students.
The high school’s involvement in this program falls in line with its new Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program.
“A lot of time in school we tell students what they can’t do. This program allows us to tell them what they can do,” Cherup said. “We focus on teaching them how they can be successful, share positive messages and inspire them to be whatever they want to be.”
According to Cherup, 70 percent of the students who attend Westland High School are economically disadvantaged, so it is essential to have a positive conversation about these issues.
“A lot of these kids’ parents work multiple jobs to make ends meet or are transient,” he said. “They deal with all sorts of issues, so it is important we provide them with some positivity.”
While the focus of Rachel’s Challenge isn’t how she died, but how she lived, organizers recognize that the culture students grow up in today is different than when Columbine happened.
“While most of these kids weren’t even born when Columbine happened, they have dealt with the repercussions their whole lives,” Cherup said. “They also have lived through Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and understand the importance of this subject matter.”
For more information on Rachel’s Challenge or the Friends of Rachel Club, visit http://whs.swcsd.us/.