Students start Friends of Rachel Club

Fort Dodge Senior High students have started a Friends of Rachel Club.

Rachel’s Challenge, adopted by the Fort Dodge Community School District in January, is a nationwide movement based on the writings of Columbine victim Rachel Joy Scott. Scott wrote in her journals about inclusion and starting a “chain reaction of kindness.”

FDSH students started the club in September, with instructors Jennifer Dutcher and Carrie Traver serving as advisors. The club has more than 20 members already.

“It is a club that is completely student-driven,” Dutcher said. “It’s students wanting to make positive changes in our school, as well as in our community.”

The club had its second meeting Thursday. The students were inspired by a Chain Reaction program held by the district in September, Dutcher said.

“Friends of Rachel Club is essentially a group that is going to do things in our school and the community that will inspire people to make positive choices and will hopefully start a chain reaction throughout our school,” she said.

Traver said the students are eager to join the club and act upon Scott’s message of kindness.

“The kids seem pretty excited about wanting to join, and it makes me feel like there’s some positive things for them going on and they can feel like part of the school and part of the community,” Traver said. “A lot of the students we have here may not already be involved in a lot of activities and this is a place they can feel like part of a group.”

The students Thursday made paper links with the message “Start a chain reaction” printed on them to distribute at homecoming. The group has greater efforts in mind.

“We hope to do different things to influence positive change,” Dutcher said. “We talked about having what we call leaves of kindness, to recognize people that really go out of their way to do a kind thing for someone else, little or big. We hope to recognize more staff and even departments, so by the students writing thank yous, for example, to the math department one week to let that department know we appreciate what you do.”

The biggest project the club is looking into, Dutcher said, is a “lip dub,” a lip sync video to be shot throughout the school.

“It will include everyone in the school,” she said. “It will kind of highlight different activities, whether it be athletics or different clubs. The video is someone lip-syncing and they’ll walk through the school, and it keeps going through the building and switching people singing.”

Scott advocated inclusion in her writing, which is also an aim for the students.

“We constantly tell them please invite your friends, spread the word. Invite people who truly want to make a change,” Dutcher said. “Our group is a wide variety of students who hang with different groups involved with different things. We welcome everybody.”

Dutcher said she has seen students endeavor to start a chain reaction.

“They go out of their way to make people feel good, whether it be just saying hello or, hey, I like your shirt. Just giving someone a boost in their day,” she said.

As a teacher, Dutcher said it was inspiring to see such a concerted effort among her students.

“To see students try to do that with others within our school community,” she said, “it just puts a smile on my face.”

According to Traver, it is important to advocate being kind.

“It makes a difference when you’re having a bad day and you come in to school or work, and somebody doing something kind to you such as saying hello can really turn your day around,” she said. “And once your day is turned around, it can turn others’ days around too.”