HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – Hundreds of students from Eggert and South Davis elementary schools in the Orchard Park district came together for a big joint-celebration Monday, after completing enough acts of kindness over the school year to create a paper chain stretching 1.9 miles, the distance between their two schools.
Each link in the chain represents a single act of kindness done by a single student. Since they started keeping track at the end of September, the Eggert and South Davis students completed more than 10,600 acts of kindness in their schools, at home, and around the community. “I think kindness has become a common language in our school now. I think that’s something that we’re all talking about. We’re all on the same page with it now,” said Lisa Tryon, an Academic Intervention Services teacher at South Davis Elementary.
“The kids are really excited about being kind to others,” agreed Michelle Lilleck, a Special Education teacher at Eggert.
That’s the point of Rachel’s challenge, the campaign behind the chain reaction of kindness at the Orchard Park schools. Rachel’s Challenge is named after Rachel Joy Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine shooting in 1999.
Scott was killed years before the Orchard Park elementary students were even born, but her legacy lives on now through the students here, and through the other students across the country who have accepted the kindness challenge. “We’ve done Rachel’s Challenge for a couple years but this is the first year when trying to make the distance between Eggert and South Davis has inspired the kids to do more acts of kindness than ever before,” Lilleck told News 4.
“It’s the little things,” explained Rachel’s Challenge presenter Chris Mowery. “It’s holding the door for somebody. It’s saying hi. It’s going over and sitting with someone at lunch.”
The little things add up when they inspire the students to pay the kindness forward, creating a chain reaction of good deeds. Teachers at the participating schools in the Orchard Park district say they’ve seen a big change for the better in the students and in the atmosphere at their schools as the school year has progressed. “I definitely think the environment of the school is much friendlier. The incidents of bullying have decreased at school,” Lilleck said.
The students were able to see a powerful visual representation of how much they’ve done and how far they’ve come when the chains made by the individual classes were brought together during a celebratory assembly at the Wesleyan Church on McKinley Parkway Monday morning.
“It validates everything that we talk about and just reminds me what amazing kids are capable of when they start showing kindness to one another, and how it can really make an impact on their community,” Mowery said.
Of course, the goal is for the kindness represented by the links in the chain to continue on into the next school year and beyond.
You can learn more about Rachel’s Challenge and how the campaign has been implemented at schools across the country by clicking here.