MEDWAY — Principal Craig Juelis and Director of Wellness Dr. Ryan Sherman are pleased to share that Medway Middle School partnered earlier this week with Rachel’s Challenge as part of an ongoing effort to foster a school climate built on respect, responsibility and the ability to rise above.
Rachel’s Challenge visited Medway Middle School on Tuesday, Feb. 4, to offer presentations and trainings around ensuring that the school is a kind and accepting environment. Rachel’s Challenge was founded by the parents of Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting, and works to make schools around the country safer and more connected places.
The event provided presentations to all students in grades five through eight, formal training for the middle school’s Where Everybody Belongs (W.E.B.) Leaders and Peer Leaders student groups and an evening event for parent education. Through the student assemblies and trainings, Rachel’s Challenge impacted all 692 Medway Middle School students.
The first presentation, Rachel’s Story, was held for students in grades five and six. Rachel’s Story introduced the students to Rachel’s work to reach out to others with kindness. By showing the profound positive impact students can have on those around them by simply paying attention to the little things they do and say every day, Rachel’s Story encourages students to consider their own behavior.
The second presentation, Rachel’s Challenge, was held for students in grades seven and eight. Stories from Rachel’s life and writings demonstrate the power of reaching out to others in word and action to start what Rachel called “a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”
In the afternoon, Rachel’s Challenge presenter Veda Tucker provided training for the school’s W.E.B. Leaders and Peer Leaders. Approximately 60 students participated in the training. The training session kicked off the beginning of the Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club at Medway Middle School and provided practical ways for the student leaders to carry out Rachel’s message as part of the FOR Club in their own school.
Tucker went through several possible projects implemented at other schools that the FOR Club could pursue at Medway Middle School. Among these project ideas were: an Instagram page that would feature photos of a student along with a compliment; high-fives from FOR Club members as students enter school; a program to welcome new students by pairing them with a FOR Club member in each class and during lunch to help them feel part of the community in their first few days; and letters to show appreciation for staff at the school such as cafeteria servers, janitors or teachers.
The goal of these project ideas is to help students create a school climate that is less susceptible to bullying and cyberbullying and where everyone feels welcome.
After these project ideas were presented, the students discussed whether they thought each project was something they could implement at Medway Middle School. Then, they grouped together to come up with their own ideas that they thought would help spread kindness throughout the school.
Throughout the year, the FOR Club will work to implement the project ideas they choose to pursue. FOR Club members will also participate in training each year to continue to work on creating a school environment that demotes bullying.
“This is the first time having the FOR Club at Medway Middle School and we’re looking forward to the ideas our student leaders will brainstorm and implement to help ensure we have a positive campus community,” Principal Juelis said. “We know that even the smallest word or action, negative or positive, has a profound impact on students. We hope the results of the visit by Rachel’s Challenge will be for students to not only look at their own behavior and how it may affect others, but to think about how they may be able to lead and encourage other students to be kind and compassionate as well.”
At the event for parents, a Rachel’s Challenge documentary was shown to help parents understand how they can support their children and the school in its efforts to promote respect and kindness among students. The documentary was followed by a panel discussion during which parents had the opportunity to ask questions and hear comments from Medway Middle School administrators, school counselors and faculty.
“Medway, for years, has been working through health education curriculum and programming to reduce instances of bullying and to make all of our schools positive and welcoming places,” Dr. Sherman said. “What’s unique about working with Rachel’s Challenge and the FOR Club is that rather than adults teaching about bullying, the students are the ones changing the culture. Students have a huge impact on one another, so having a group of 60 kids demonstrating positive acts throughout the school day will hopefully inspire other kids to do the same.”
The event was funded through a grant from The Greater Milford Community Health Network: CHNA-6 which partners with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Milford Regional Medical Center, local service agencies, schools, businesses, Boards of Health, community health centers and other health organizations, as well as other concerned citizens who are working together to build healthier communities.