Motivated and inspired by concepts of kindness, students at Wallenpaupack Area High School have united to create “Friends of Rachel.” With over 70 members, the club focuses on bettering peoples’ lives by simply being kind.

Motivated and inspired by concepts of kindness, students at Wallenpaupack Area High School have united to create “Friends of Rachel.” With over 70 members, the club focuses on bettering peoples’ lives by simply being kind.
    Nearly two months after representatives from Rachel’s Challenge, visited the district to inform students, faculty and staff about Rachel Joy Scott’s theories about kindness, students have embraced what was said at the assembly, and are now working to expand those concepts. The theories are thriving, as students act on them and arrive before classes begin and stay once they end, to develop additional ideas and projects that can be done to keep the feeling of kindness going.
    Scott was the first victim of the 1999 Columbine School massacre, and today, her idea that if someone goes out of their way to help others, they can start a chain reaction of the same behavior is the foundation of the club’s mission. Through simple acts, club member, Sal Zarzana said making one person smile is all that really matters. That, he explained is what the club does, by making people realize that the smallest acts really do count.
    Friends of Rachel is not quite like others, Zarazana said because anyone can join. Unlike other clubs, the students decided not to have a club president, instead all members must want to make a difference.
    Friends of Rachel is excelling, Natalie Christopher said, because the students are making the changes, “because we care.” Different than other student clubs, she said the students have become leaders. Emily Henderson said the students are creating ideas and by working together to make things happen, other students are also being motivated.  
    The work that is being done, and the help that the students are giving is different, Chelsea Kelly said. What the Friends of Rachel are doing is unique, she said, because students are initiating it all. By spreading kindness, she added that it is a good feeling.
    Christopher said she decided to join the club to, “break the barrier,” that exists in the school between cliques so everyone can be equals. Since the assembly, Christopher said students are recognizing others rather than just passing them by.
    Several students acknowledged how the assembly reminded them of how important it is to tell friends and family how much they are appreciated. Kayla Celona, said it is important because, “in a blink of an eye somebody can be gone.”
    Paper chains have hung throughout the school since the assembly, with slips of paper available so when a person sees someone do something good, they can add it to the chain. One day, club advisor and English teacher Kelly Obermiller saw someone save a woolly bear caterpillar and she added it to the chain.
    Although the chain reaction is a simple concept, Molly Mowatt said when one person does something good and another sees it, a “ripple effect” is created and hopefully it will continue. That effect, she said is both, “meaningful and powerful.”
    Not only a chain about kindness, Kristen Denniston said the chain is a symbol for everyone because it signifies that differences are being made and how important it is for people to be kind.
    At the assembly, students were told that if they decide to participate in Rachel’s Challenge they will be working to change a culture. Since the assembly, Jessica Kellstrom said the school has changed. Students, she explained are holding doors and rather than just brushing that act off, they respond with, “thank you.” That, she said, “is a big thing” because that didn’t happen before. Now, she added Wallenpaupack is, “a little brighter and happier.”
    To keep the positive energy going, members of Friends of Rachel created, “fist pump Fridays,” which are a little different than high-fives. When students see each other in the halls, rather than giving high-fives because that is a way to spread germs, they will bump each other’s fists to recognize one another. Also on Fridays, everyone can wear their Rachel’s Challenge shirts or school colors.
    Additional changes include students no longer sitting by themselves at lunch. Or, for students who may be uncomfortable talking with adults about problems, Friends of Rachel are working on a student counseling system. Also, a mentorship program for upperclassmen to help the younger students is being worked on and a way to recognize students who are making big differences.
    As the club adviser, Obermiller said working with the students is a “privilege,” because they are great kids. Friends of Rachel is a club that is important for students, she said, because they are the future.
    Zarazana said things in society need to change and through Friends of Rachel, some things will. But, he noted that change will come with time and for now, “we’ll be starting it here.”