Little Falls Middle School students joined together to walk to school on Friday for International Walk to School Day, but the event held another meaning for its participants.
“It was an answer to Rachel’s Challenge,” said Little Falls Superintendent of Schools Louis Patrei on Friday. “Basically what the students are trying to do is demonstrate dignity for all students and the unity of all of our students.”
The event — which had been postponed from Thursday — started at 8:30 a.m. in Burke Park, with the sun beaming down while a fog cleared up.
With help from a Little Falls City police escort, the 240 or so students walked together under the supervision of teachers and staff two miles uphill to the middle school.
International Walk to School or Bike To School Month coincides with anti-bullying week. Many of the students were dressed in either their school color of purple or the anti-bullying color of blue.
Students at the front of the pack held a sign that read “I Walk, I Accept” with a drawing of the globe on it. Teresa Lee, a middle school teacher who helped organize the event, walked along with the students as they headed up Monroe Street on Friday morning.
“‘I walk’ is for physical activity and being together and ‘I accept’ is for Rachel’s Challenge,” she said.
Schools across the county have been taking on their own responses to Rachel’s Challenge — which was initiated this year by the Herkimer County Youth Violence Prevention Committee. The presentations at the 12 Herkimer BOCES component school districts this school year reached more than 5,000 students in grades 6 to 12, and included a leadership training component at BOCES, where 400 student leaders from across the county received information to help them to create and implement on-campus character initiatives and community service events.
Rachel’s Challenge is designed to help students increase positive behaviors, eliminate prejudice and be inspired to take action locally in their schools and communities. The campaign is named after Rachel Scott — the first student killed during the Columbine High School shooting.
In Little Falls, said Lee, they’re “hoping to start a chain reaction of kindness.”
Lee said, for example, there is a box in the school office where someone can note if they see an act of kindness. “It’s paying more attention to what we are doing and what others are doing,” she said.
The school has conducted the walk over the past several years.
Patrei said they have dedicated the walk in the past, including to the Fallen Stars Memorial which commemorates those New York state soldiers who have died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Lee said most of the students participated in the event. She said there were some that were unable to participate due to medical reasons.
Page 2 of 2 - Walk to School events will take place throughout the month. For more information about Walk to School Day, visit www.walkbiketoschool.org.