Rachel’s Challenge Impacting Montgomery, WHS

On September 19, 2013, Wylie High School held a Rachel’s Challenge assembly.  If you looked around during the assembly, you saw many faces filled with emotion. Every person in the gym was paying attention and really listening to what was being said.  It touched a lot of people and that was exactly what WHS principal, Mr. Virdie Montgomery, wanted.

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“This story will touch our hearts and make us more aware,” Montgomery said. “We do this in September so it will last all year long. If we do it in May we’ve lost most of the year. If we do it now we can feel it working throughout the year.”

Rachel Joy Scott

Rachel Joy Scott

According to the website, www.RachelsChallenge.org, Rachel’s Challenge is a program designed to combat bullying and feelings of isolation and despair by “creating a culture of kindness and compassion.” The program was started by the parents of17 year-old Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first student killed at Columbine High School during the mass shootings there in 1999.  The program is based upon her life and writings, through which Rachel “reach[ed] out to those who were different, who were picked on by others, or who were new at her school.”

Shortly before her death, Rachel wrote, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.” That quote is the basis for Rachel’s Challenge.

Rachel’s Challenge isn’t just a cause that Montgomery supports: it’s a way of life.  You can feel when Rachel’s Challenge is working. You can feel when the love and caring in a school is going south and no one is treating anyone the right way. But you can also feel when the school picks itself up and rises to the challenge.

“We feel it when we’re losing what we’re about,” Montgomery said. “Everyone goes through it. Everyone has that one person you can go to when life gets bad. For most people it’s a parent, teacher, pastor, or friend. With Rachel’s Challenge it’s something the whole school can tie to, that this is the way we’re supposed to live our life.”

Rachel’s Challenge can touch everyone in a school and be used when we’ve lost what we stand for. It’s a way to pull it back to us. Montgomery first felt it’s affects eight years ago when he was an Assistant Principal at Wylie High School while attending an assembly in Grapevine.

“I wore a coat and tie. No handkerchief,” Montgomery said. “By the time it was over my tie was dripping wet. I came back to [then-principal] Mr. Brown and said we have to bring this here.”

Montgomery knew that just having an assembly wouldn’t have the desired affect. He needed to start a “Friends of Rachel Club” to keep the feeling and meaning of the assembly long past a month. He succeeded. That year, WHS was honored with the first “School of the Year” award for the best Rachel’s Challenge in the program.

“You could feel the difference in the school,” iPatch teacher Mrs. Holcomb said, speaking of that first year. “We are getting there again.”

This assembly was our booster shot for the year. It is now up to the students and staff of Wylie High School to take the meaning to heart and live this way of life.

“We get caught up in drama and can’t remember what we value sometimes,” Montgomery said. “Rachel’s Challenge helps us see this and fall back on those values we cherish. Deep down we all know this is how we’re supposed to live our life.”