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Kaneland Connection: Rachel’s Challenge headed to Harter Middle School

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 5:31 a.m. CDT

SUGAR GROVE – A program that promises to deliver a message of kindness is headed to Kaneland Harter Middle School.

The Rachel’s Challenge program will be presented throughout the day Tuesday at the school, 1601 Esker Drive in Sugar Grove. There will be two presentations for students during the school day – at 7:30 a.m. for sixth- and seventh-graders and at 9 a.m. for eighth-graders.

At 6 p.m., there will be a presentation for the Kaneland community. Students are encouraged to attend with their parents.

Rachel’s Challenge is named for Rachel Joy Scott, who died in 1999 in the Columbine High School shootings. According to www.rachelschallenge.org, it is based on the writings and life of Scott, 17, who was the first student killed at the shootings. The program was started by Scott’s father and stepmother.

Bryan Zwemke, the middle school principal, said the program is supportive of the school’s goals – kindness, ownership, respect and trust, a concept known as KORT.

“We have wanted to focus on social-emotional learning, and we thought that this program would meet the needs of that,” Zwemke said. “It focuses on respect and centers around five challenges.”

The challenges:

• Dream big and believe in yourself.

• Be kind to others.

• Practice positive gossip.

• Show appreciation.

• Be the answer.

In a letter to Harter parents, Zwemke encouraged parents to attend the community session with their children.

“Our goal is that at the end of this assembly, students have a renewed hope that their life matters and they have a purpose,” Zwemke wrote in the letter. “They appreciate the importance of being kind to others for the positive impact it has on both the recipient and on themselves. Participants understand that words have the power to hurt and the power to heal and are inspired to use their words in a positive way.”

Zwemke said officials visited other schools that have had the program presented and “they felt this was a good impact for their students.”

The program has support from P.E.A.K. For Kids, which stands for promoting enrichment and kindness. It is the organization that hosts the Kindness Campaign in the Kaneland community. Its founder, Renee Dee, said Rachel’s Challenge is “going to be a great complement to all of the other programs the school and other organizations are doing in the community. ... It will complement all of the efforts of the Kindness Campaign.”

That effort will be boosted next month, as Oct. 13 to 19 will be KiK Week, which stands for “kindness in Kaneland,” she said.

Dee said is important to spread a message to youths that being kind is an option.

“We’re trying to make it cool to be nice,” she said.

For information on the Rachel’s Challenge program, call 630-466-8400 or visit www.kaneland.org.

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at alagattolla@shawmedia.com.

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