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December 09, 2016
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community living

Chain reaction gains momentum at Port Jervis High School

Port Jervis High School sophomores (from left) Paige Eccleston, Megan Brown, Grace Sullivan and junior Megan Hofstee were part of the nearly 100 students who participated in the fourth annual Chain Reaction Day. The program is so popular with students that there was a waiting list for this year’s day-long program.
Contributed photo

Snow and intense cold didn't stop the Friends of Rachel's Club from continuing its chain reaction of kindness and compassion at Port Jervis High School.

On January 10, close to 100 students, staff, parents and community leaders came together to participate in the intense Chain Reaction Day. The students spent the entire school day in the gymnasium interacting with adult leaders in high energy activities and emotional discussions. The goal is to empower the students to make a difference in their community.

This marks the fourth year the inspirational program was offered at PJHS by Rachel's Challenge, the empowering program that's helping schools across the country create safer learning environments. Chain Reaction Day builds upon the core component of the Rachel's Challenge program: to inspire, equip and empower students to prevent bullying, violence and suicides by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. This simple, yet profound philosophy is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.

Chain Reaction is the most powerful Rachel's Challenge program. Students spend the day engaged in activities that challenge them to openly discuss life struggles, painful experiences, and failures. The experience draws students together, breaks down barriers, and influences them to make positive changes in their lives. Most participants respond to the day’s challenges with self-reflection and the acknowledgement of personal responsibility.

One indicator of the program's growing success is the students' reaction. Generally, participants are selected based on referrals from teachers or counselors. This year, so many students referred themselves that program organizers had to start a waiting list.

Rachel's inspiring message was first presented at Port High in 2008. Students and staff, who were impacted by Rachel Scott’s inspirational story, established the Friends of Rachel Club. Under the guidance of school officials and club advisors Christa Hoovler and Chris Addy, the Friends of Rachel and other students have been working together to make the positive message a part of the school's culture.

High School students interested in joining Friends of Rachel are always welcome. Club members gather informally every Tuesday in front of the auditorium during the lunch periods. More information about the program is available on the Rachel’s Challenge website www.rachelschallenge.org.