VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Vigo County School Corporation has been working to bring more kindness to their schools and landed on a program designed to do just that.
“Students are pretty fragile. And their social-emotional well-being is fairly fragile. And it doesn’t take much to shatter that fragility,” Dr. Tom Balitewicz, Director of Student Services for VCSC said.
“We’ve seen such an uptick since COVID in just unkind behavior and students, honestly even adults, feeling like they can say whatever they want to someone, regardless of how the other person feels,” Shelley William-Bennett, School Counselor at Woodrow Wilson Middle School said.
That uptick prompted VCSC leaders to look at how they can positively impact those behaviors. The school corporation has been on a mission since last spring to do just that, starting with using restorative practices whenever possible.
Dr. Megan Kirk said, that as school leaders, they need to be intentional about working with a child through a situation. “Restorative practices really give us an opportunity to repair harm.”
Restorative practices might look like building skills or talking about social awareness of a particular situation.
“When you talk in this tone, it comes across as disrespectful, let’s talk about other ways that we could say and mean what you want,” Kirk said.
The other element, introducing Rachel’s Challenge. An initiative born from the death of Rachel Scott in Columbine.
“In researching Rachel’s Challenge, we found that schools do see a decrease in discipline referrals, they see a decrease in bullying, they see a decrease in isolation and an increase in connectedness to their school,” Kirk said was just what they’re looking for. “We want our students to be engaged and feel like they belong in our schools.”
The corporation will spend about two weeks traveling to the schools providing presentations on Rachel’s Challenge. The message is tailored to be appropriate for each grade level.
Rachel was said to be an ordinary teenager in many ways, but she believed that kindness could change the world.
The program demonstrates the power of deliberately reaching out to others to others to start what Rachel called a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.
“We really hope that coming out of this, not only that message of kindness and compassion but connectedness and feeling like they belong in their school and maybe having a little bit different lens about how they view their peers and their teachers and their school building,” Kirk said.
Following the program, students will be charged with taking a pledge to act with kindness and compassion and carry on Rachel’s story.
“To have a kinder environment in the schools,” Williams-Bennett said. “The kids deserve it.”
VCSC invites the community to hear the inspiring true story of Rachel’s dream being fulfilled 20 years after her death. The presentation is a powerful reminder of the little things we can do every day to make our world a better place. There are three opportunities to be a part of the positive chain of reaction.
- August 29 at 6:30 PM – Woodrow Wilson Middle School
- August 30 at 6:30 PM – West Vigo High School Auditorium
- August 31 at 6:30 PM – Honey Creek Middle School Cafeteria