Westwood High School students create a chain of kindness
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Westwood High School students create a chain of kindness

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  • Heidi Hurst/ Mesa Public Schools

Yan And Alvarado Pose With The Friends Of Rachel Chain Of Kindness At Westwood High School. Photo By Tim Hacker/Mesa Public Schools

An anti-bullying club at Westwood High School is continuing the legacy of Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

The Friends of Rachel Club encourages the Westwood community to be kind and caring to one another. As a student, Scott reached out to encourage many of her peers who struggled. After her death, her parents started the nonprofit organization, Rachel’s Challenge, to continue her vision of caring and compassion. More than 1.5 million people internationally are involved in Rachel’s Challenge programs.

“Rachel imagined a world filled with kindness and peace, quelled of violence and bullying,” explains club member Jessica Yan. “The goal of the Friends of Rachel Club is to encourage the Westwood community toward that ultimate end.”

Westwood High School students create a chain of kindness rachels-friends-300x155

Yan and Alvarado pose with the Friends of Rachel chain of kindness at Westwood High School. Photo by Tim Hacker/Mesa Public Schools

The Westwood Friends of Rachel Club was started in March 2015 after a presentation by the organization. Membership has been fluid, ranging from 31 to 78 members at a time. Sponsor Thomas Miholich says group activities include large and small projects, discussions and words of the week, along with weekly goals of performing random acts of kindness.

In March, Yan, a sophomore, and Dax Alvarado, a senior, headed up the creation of a massive chain project for the club. “We handed out more than 3,000 strips of paper to students and had them write something positive and motivating,” Alvarado says. “After we collected all the strips, we connected them together and hung them throughout the main hall for all to see.”

The colorful project was an extraordinary endeavor for Friends of Rachel Club members, who worked on the chain after school and during spring break. The chain adorned the hallway of Westwood’s main classroom building for two weeks.

“When this idea was first brought up, the initial concern was what kind of responses we’d receive,” Miholich explains. “With close to 3,000 students, we wondered if the students would get a bit crazy. Well, I’ve always known our students are an awesome group of young men and women, but this brought to the forefront what we’ve said for years, that our students are not only learning in the classroom, but also learning what true depth of character means.”

Alvarado and Yan praise the Westwood student body for embracing the chain project and making it a success. “The student body had a great point of view about this project,” Alvarado says. “Most of the strips had such wonderful statements that left me speechless with a big smile on my face.”

Yan adds, “When people say that Westwood has a supportive community, believe them. After conducting this project, I can say this with absolute certainty: The Westwood student body is one of the most sympathetic and accommodating groups of people in the state.”