With an emphasis on creating a "chain reaction" of kindness and compassion, Rachel's Challenge fits in nicely with the spirit of the holidays. The long list of activities taking place in OCM BOCES programs is impressive, especially since students and staff involved in the “Friends of Rachel” (FOR) clubs are exceptionally committed to promoting a culture of kindness in our schools.
Here are some updates submitted by OCM BOCES staff:
Cortland Alternative School
The school has launched a "Caught Red Handed" campaign in which any student or staff member can nominate someone who has been observed doing a random act of kindness. Names are put in a jar. Each week, FOR club members look at all the nominations and place a "red hand" on the wall for each one. One or two winners each week also receives a treat bag and an acknowledgement over the loud speaker. The club also posts to its Instagram account: "FOR Club Cortland Alternative School." Once someone has won three times, they get upgraded to a bigger prize: a homework pass, coffee from Coffeemania or Dunkin Donuts or something else that is appropriate.
Submitted by Sue Sperger
At McEvoy, Snack Packs are underway! Students and staff are providing approximately 36 students on Fridays with backpacks full of food. We also introduced a new initiative that involves having staff and students share acts of kindness by writing them down and placing them in jars located throughout the building. At the end of each week, a name will be pulled (staff and student), and both will be recognized within our school community. They will also receive a small gift of appreciation. In addition, McEvoy CTE students have made signs and are collecting food for the food panty/backpack program. The campus is also going to be opening a clothing closet very soon! All campus club members have been helping with this project. Some members have helped by sorting and washing clothes; others have been helping by cleaning cabinets.
Submitted by Kimberly M. Capalongo and Laura Swayze
Innovation Tech & Reach
At Innovation Tech & Reach, students are lighting up the world with kindness! Students are being given paper tree bulbs on which they complete the sentence: "I can light up the world with kindness by... " The bulbs are being strung up in the hallways. FOR Club students have also signed up for shifts to volunteer at Destiny USA to ring the bells for the annual holiday Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign. In addition, our students have done a Secret Santa exchange, where every student picks a name and then writes a positive note/holiday greeting that is attached to candy canes and distributed anonymously. (This was spearheaded by our Special Education teacher, Segan Johnson). We also did a positive-attributes ice breaker activity with the FOR Club students, as well as our staff. Everyone loved it!
Submitted by Kristin Brangman
At Crossroads, the teachers are working with students on a Project Based Learning unit focusing on kindness in support of Rachel's Challenge. As an entry event on December 1, students heard from Ruth Lothammer, the Director of Community Relations at Parkrose Retirement Community. She talked about Parkrose and the needs of its residents. Students are currently making holiday crafts and ornaments for the residents, and they will soon be baking cookies and other items to share with the residents on December 22. The Crossroads FOR Club is also holding a food drive to help needy students/families during the holiday season.
Submitted by Renae Montroy
The STARS FOR Club is currently setting up our Joy's Outlet! We have the space cleared out and are currently sorting and setting it up to be used by students after the holiday break. FOR Club members have also finished lanyards for members to wear during meetings and activities throughout the building. Members also distributed popcorn to the ADT Program last Friday for a "Popping Good Friday." This week, members are creating cards with a positive message that will be attached to candy canes and handed out on "High Five Friday." In January, we will be sorting clothes and opening Joy's Outlet as well as having members complete activities to strengthen the FOR Club principles.
Submitted by Denise Morris
In the Strides Program at the Crown Road Campus, we are working on the Macy's "Believe" Campaign. Students are writing letters to Santa and encouraging others to write as many letters to Santa as possible. For every letter we deliver to Macy's before Christmas, the store will donate $1 to the Make a Wish Foundation. We are hoping to bring some students with us next week to Macy's to deliver the letters to their red Santa mailbox.
Submitted by Emily Adams
Seven Valleys New Tech Academy
At Seven Valleys New Tech Academy, students have been organizing a Rachel's closet with donated clothes. The students have been making posters to advertise it to the rest of the student body.