Rachel's Challenge making a difference in California, too

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by JOHN McCAA

Bio | Email | Follow: @johnmccaa

WFAA

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 10:04 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 23 at 2:24 AM

Rachel's Challenge has been busy over the summer break spreading across the country and making gains in the fight against cruelty among young people.

Channel 8 and our parent company Belo have teamed up with the non-profit organization. Because of that, 13 cities have been added to the Rachel's Challenge group.

There are already 195 Rachel's Challenge events booked for this school year. Rachel's father, Darrell Scott, has made 29 trips to Belo cities to spread his daughter's message of kindness.

North Texas embraced the program last year, and one of the other great success stories has been in Fresno, California.

California may be the "Golden State," but for kids in Fresno there wasn't much shining. With 325 schools and nearly 200,000 students across the county, there were drugs and gangs everywhere.

"Our area has the sixth-highest poverty rate in the nation, and our schools face all kinds of challenges because of that," said Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Larry Powell.

So they brought Rachel's Challenge to 47 schools in Fresno.

Rachel Scott, the program's namesake, was first to die in the Columbine High School massacre. During her life, she urged others to make a difference through kindness.

This program encourages students to sign pledges to promote caring and acts of kindness... and it's working.

"I was in an assembly, I watched 1,000 kids listen intently and they identified with what it's like to be bullied," Powell said. "At the end of the assembly, they moved right to the sign saying they want to be a part of Rachel's Challenge."

Bullying and teen suicides still occur, but the numbers are down around Fresno; the acts of kindness are way up.

"It changes the dynamic," Powell said. "A bully made a sign that said, 'I'm sorry,' and stood at a bus stop. And here he was the football hero on campus, and had bullied kids his entire life."

We at WFAA have teamed up with Rachel's Challenge in North Texas. A number of school districts have joined in the task and thousands of area students have taken the challenge by performing acts of kindness.

This school year, Rachel's Challenge will be growing in our area; watch for events in your school district.

E-mail jmccaa@wfaa.com

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