The challenge of kindness

Betty Kiefer students take on 'Rachel's Challenge'

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Betty Kiefer Elementary School students watch Lakeland High School cheerleaders perform on Friday during a “Rachel’s Challenge” rally at Betty Kiefer Elementary School in Rathdrum. The challenge is to treat others with kindness and respect, and is named after Rachel Scott, who was 17 when she was the first student killed at the Columbine shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.

RATHDRUM - Hundreds of students at Betty Kiefer Elementary School in Rathdrum filled the gymnasium Friday afternoon, their earth-shattering screams signaling they were ready to spread kindness.

The assembly was a kickoff event for Rachel's Challenge - a program geared around encouraging students to treat others the way they would like to be treated. After the Lakeland High School cheer and spirit teams got the crowd fired up, Principal Lynn Paslay told the students just what the challenge means.

"This is about helping and doing," Paslay said. "This is about how we are going to be serving as a family."

The program is based on the writings and life of 17-year-old Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

"She reached out to people who were treated differently," said Rebecca Miller, a school counselor. "Our goal is to continue that mission and reach out to others by showing them kindness and compassion."

Students watched a brief video about Rachel and the impact her challenge has at schools across the nation. Once it was complete, Miller talked about what the challenge will look like at Betty Kiefer this year.

Miller pointed out a large handprint on the wall of the gymnasium, with the words "These are the hands of BKE and they will touch millions of hearts" written next to it. Throughout the year, students will fill in the handprint with their acts of compassion and kindness.

The handprint with the quote is similar to the one Rachel's parents discovered in her room following her death.

"It's a little bit different though," Miller said. "We didn't say 'Someday' on ours because today is that day. Do something starting today that shows people kindness and compassion. Our goal is to have the whole hand filled with those acts."

Corey Friis, a sixth-grade teacher, then spoke to the assembled students about what sort of challenge-related activities they could expect throughout the year. On top of showing kindness to their peers, students will also participate in a food drive and donate coats to children in need.

The school will also organize fundraisers in support of local causes. Last year, Friis said the elementary school students raised enough money to buy a special piece of equipment that allows a young boy named Aiden to turn his wheelchair into a bicycle.

"You have changed his life," Friis said. "You guys did that."

Students at the school wrapped up the assembly with a skit. The skit showed how a new student would feel if they were ignored and not asked to hang out, before showing the opposite reaction when another group of students introduced themselves.

For more information on Rachel's Challenge, visit www.rachelschallenge.org.

Lakeland High School cheerleaders pump up Betty Kiefer Elementary School students on Friday at Betty Kiefer Elementary School in Rathdrum.

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