Gossiping, name-calling, and shoving.
Those were just a few of the things about 100 students citied as instances of bullying in their school.
“Now what if great students overwhelm the school with kindness and compassion?” Luke Towle asked the students seated on the gym of the Mystic Middle School floor.
Towle gave two presentations on Rachel’s Challenge at the Mystic Middle Thursday. The program brought to Stonington, by and the asks students and adults to start, “a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”
Inspired by the life and writings of Rachel Scott, the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999, the program clearly made an impression on the students, about 100 of whom also participated in leadership training in the afternoon.
Designed as a way to keep the message of Rachel’s Challenge alive long after the presentation concluded, the leadership training gave the students the tools to form a Friends For Rachel Club at Mystic Middle School.
The students were asked to think about ways to spread kindness and compassion throughout their school, and the community through projects such as targeted kindness where students write positive notes to each other, create chain links of the good deeds they see each other do, or create a program to help new students adjust to the school.
But first the engaging, funny and charming Towle made sure the kids understood the message of Rachel’s Challenge and what bullying is, and how to stop it.
As the students spoke about what Rachel’s Challenge meant to them some were teary-eyed, many were brutally honest—talking about wanting to be like Rachel, about parents getting divorced, about wanting bullying to end—and all were respectful of their fellow schoolmates.
“You don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” Mystic Middle School student Georgia McGugan told the gathered group. McGugan said she had gotten into a fight with her older sister but after the presentation would go home and apologize.
Through an interactive session coupled with a montage of videos from Friends Of Rachel Clubs around the country, Towle challenged the students to look at the way they treat others. He spoke about different ways to spread kindness and stop bullying such as giving pep talks, running interference with a bully, intercepting a bullying and finally knowing when to ask for help.
“I realized that you want to make a good first impression on somebody because if you make that first good impression you might change their life for the better,” said eight- grader Sarah Monk.
To the applause and cheers of the students announced the school received a $450 grant from the Stonington Education Fund to start the Friends of Rachel Club. The first meeting will likely take place within the next two weeks.
“We’re very committed to keeping this going,” McCurdy said.
Stonington High School, Friday, Dec. 2, to on Monday, Dec. 5 and there will be a community wide presentation on Monday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m., at the .