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The Times
  • Rachel’s Challenge presentation ‘hits home’ for students

  • As Frankfort-Schuyler High School senior Rebecca Gillette sat in the middle school/high school large gymnasium watching news and school video clips of the Columbine High School shooting, she said her mind was “really jumbled.”

    “I couldn’t believe someone could get to such a deep place,” Gillette said. “But I know Rachel changes the world.”

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  • As Frankfort-Schuyler High School senior Rebecca Gillette sat in the middle school/high school large gymnasium watching news and school video clips of the Columbine High School shooting, she said her mind was “really jumbled.”
    “I couldn’t believe someone could get to such a deep place,” Gillette said. “But I know Rachel changes the world.”
    Hundreds of fellow students from grades 7 to 12 gathered in the gym to watch the presentation of Rachel’s Challenge, the first victim shot during the Columbine shooting on April 20, 1999.
    The program — inspired by words from Rachel Scott’s diary and the positive, compassionate and kind attitude she exhibited to her fellow classmates — asks students to take the challenge focusing on five key aspects — look for the best in others; dream big; choose positive influences; speak with kindness and start your own chain reaction.
    Rachel’s mantra was “I’m going to have an impact on the world,” speaker Peter DeAnello said.
    “A kind word can make a difference in somebody’s life,” DeAnello said, emphasizing Rachel made it a point to reach out to students with special needs, new students and those being picked on.
    Superintendent Robert Reina said the presentation will not stop at the formal assembly, however.
    Students also were selected, or volunteered, to be part of the Friends of Rachel Club where they will be trained to educate on anti-bullying and anti-harassment. “That’s what makes it different,” he said. “A lot of times programs come in and they’re one time deals.”
    After the presentation, Reina spoke to the students encouraging them they could take the challenge and make a chain reaction. “If there is any school district that can pick up Rachel’s Challenge, it is Frankfort-Schuyler,” he said to the cheers of students.
    Senior Joe Juliano, who saw the program at a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership conference, said Rachel’s Challenge goes beyond the run-of-the-mill programs offered.
    Juliano said he came back knowing everyone had to experience the presentation.
    “This goes so much more in depth,” he said. “It just hits home.”
    Juliano’s sister, who also was at the conference and saw the presentation, agreed. The other programs are “no where near as impactful,” said Jamie Juliano, a junior. “We can relate to Rachel.”
    Gillette said despite not knowing the details, she knew the program would be a great thing to have.
    With tears in her eyes, Gillette said she was a victim of bullying at one time and just dealt with it.
    “I’m hoping I can help someone in that situation,” she said of being part of the peer group.
    Jamie Juliano said in being a peer she hopes she will be able to make the environment around her a better place. While she has not personally been bullied, Jamie Juliano said she can sympathize.
    Page 2 of 2 - “If I could take their place, I would,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears.
    The Herkimer County Youth Violence Prevention Committee is sponsoring Rachel’s Challenge presentations in 12 Herkimer BOCES school districts and their corresponding communities through Sept. 26. Presentations are scheduled for today at Dolgeville, Little Falls and Oppenheim-Ephratah, on Sept. 20 at Mount Markham and Richfield Springs, on Sept. 24 at Poland and West Canada Valley and on Sept. 26 at the town of Webb. The presentations are expected to reach over 5,000 students in grades 6 to 12, and will include a leadership training component at Herkimer BOCES on Sept. 21 and 25 where 400 student leaders from across the county will receive information that will help them to create and implement on-campus character initiatives and community service events.
    Funding to support the Rachel’s Challenge presentations was received from range of community partners and organizations, including the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, various Rotary Clubs in District 7150, Herkimer County HealthNet, the Frankfort Kiwanis Club, the St. Francis Society, Herkimer County Employment and Training, the Herkimer County Youth Bureau, Herkimer County Stop-DWI and the Herkimer County Legislature.
    “These presentations are a result of the great community collaborative work being done here in Herkimer County involving school districts, county government, law enforcement, community agencies, foundations and service organizations, all working together to improve the well-being of our children, families and communities,” county Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono said in a news release. “James Wallace, Herkimer County administrator and chair of the Youth Violence Prevention Committee, along with all members of the committee, should be acknowledged for their dedication to youth and families, and their continuing efforts to bring new and innovative ideas to the table, with the ultimate goal of improving lives and making Herkimer County a great place to live.”

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