Students create chain of kindness

Links of alternating red and white hang from the Wapakoneta High School cafeteria ceiling.
The paper chain serves as a reminder — to be kind to one another.
Each link in the chain symbolizes a random act of kindness, something done by one student for another.
Chain links and a box to submit those random acts of kindness that have been documented on them sit on a table in the cafeteria and can be filled out anytime.
The idea for the chain came from students who belong to a new group,
Friends of Rachel (F.O.R.), started this year after being inspired by a presentation from the uncle of Columbine High School shooting victim Rachel Scott.
The first person shot that day, Rachel’s legacy has become a powerful program presented across the country based upon the contents of diaries she had kept and an essay she wrote for class.
“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,” Rachel wrote.
Through her essay, Rachel encouraged others to try it for themselves, to show compassion and start a chain reaction of the same.
Practicing random acts of kindness was part of a five-step challenge Rachel issued before her death.
“One action can start a chain reaction,” said sophomore Dusty Hoelscher, who is actively involved with Friends for Rachel at the high school.
Presenting her idea to fellow Wapakoneta High School students, as well as Wapakoneta Middle School and Wapakoneta Elementary School students on Thursday, Dusty said she’s encouraging them to write down something that someone did for them. She checks the box for new links to add to the chain each day.
Wapakoneta students have challenged St. Marys City School students to see who can create the longest chain by the time they meet each other on the basketball court this winter — at which time the chains will be revealed.
Senior Alicia Sawmiller said they are hoping to get even more of a response from students in upcoming weeks, although they’ve had a wide variety of students writing down ways they have experienced random acts of kindness.
Examples of some ways students have displayed kindness to each other is picking something up another student drops in the hallway or joining another student sitting alone at a lunch table, something one group of students has continued to do.
“We want to show the community what us teens can do,” Dusty said.
Already the 25 students involved in the group have created welcoming programs for new students and weekly positive note cards they leave for teachers and staff members, and an example of a random act of kindness is presented each morning during announcements.
Dusty said they’d like to plan a rally day, where students at the school, ranging from eighth-graders to seniors, spend an hour participating in activities to get to know different people.
“It’s all great ways to make the school better,” Alicia said.
Dusty said she wanted to inspire other people to make the world better and this was a way she saw that she could step up and make a difference.
“It was a chance to be heard,” Dusty said.
Talking about a new student to whom she wrote a note, Dusty said its just one example of how that turned into a life-changing event for the other student who had a bad experience on her first day and was encouraged by the note to stay rather than to go back to her former school.
Dusty said the Rachel’s Challenge anti-bullying presentation gave the whole school an eye-opening experience.
Wapakoneta High School Assistant Principal Scott Minnig, who volunteered to help advise the group which meets weekly, said it’s a way to show a lot of the positive things going on in the building rather than just all the negative ones people always hear about.
“I hope it makes school like no one is ever left out, no bullying,” Alicia said. “It would be great to be known as the school with the chain of kindness.”