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Liberty Elementary kicks off third annual 'Rachel's Challenge'

From left, Liberty Elementary students Dawson Alexander and Zachary Maychrzak hold up the
From left, Liberty Elementary students Dawson Alexander and Zachary Maychrzak hold up the 'We Can Do It!' slogan banner for the school's annual 'Rachel's Challenge' campaign, which school TOSA Tami Taylor helped the students kick off for this year on Jan. 15.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — The students of Liberty Elementary received a visit from Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring on Wednesday, Jan. 15, as they kicked off their third year of "Rachel's Challenge," a campaign designed to inspire acts of kindness in the memory of Rachel Joy Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings.

"Acts of kindness are like chain reactions, because they inspire other people to do kind things," Tami Taylor, a TOSA for the school, told students during an assembly that morning. "Remember, if you catch any of your fellow students being kind, write that down on a chain link. Last year, our chain made it all the way to the Mayor's office."

Nehring himself recalled how the chain of paper links, each one recording an act of kindness by a Liberty Elementary student, had managed to extend along the streets and sidewalks of Marysville, between the school and his own office in the Marysville City Hall, and he praised the students for their achievement.

"Our city employees were so inspired by it that they still talk about it," Nehring told the students during the Jan. 15 assembly. "Traffic stopped as passersby tried to figure out what was going on. In a very real sense, your acts of kindness made a difference to the whole city. I'll bet there were a bunch of grownups who saw what you'd done and said to themselves, 'If those kids can commit to that many acts of kindness, we as adults should be able to do the same.'"

After a quartet of Liberty Elementary students took to the stage to recall examples of kindness that they'd witnessed — from helping a fellow student who had fallen down, to standing up to bullying — school librarian Cathy Russell reminded the students of a book she'd read to them in September of last year, "Each Kindness," in which a little girl learned the error of her bullying ways, but too late to make up for them to the other girl whom she'd bullied.

"It's like when you throw a rock in a pond, and all the ripples move out across the water," Russell said. "What you do and say moves out to the world around you, and whether you're kind or unkind, it can create ripples."

Russell tested the students' math skills when she presented them with this year's goal of 100 chain links of acts of kindness for every classroom at the school, by pointing out that many of those classes have 25 or more students, so by dividing 100 by 25, students realized that each one of them was responsible for four acts of kindness, which Russell deemed an easily achievable goal for the motivated students of Liberty Elementary.

"With all the acts of kindness that you do every day, I'm so proud to be your principal," said Liberty Elementary Principal Gloria Henderson, who recalled how one of her peers had performed an act of kindness for her when she was in the sixth grade, by helping her up from the floor after a bully had tripped her. "I don't remember the pain of my fall, but I remember her helping me off the ground. That kindness is why I chose to be a teacher, and then a principal. It had a ripple effect on my life."

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