Hazelwood Southeast Students Help Defeat Bullying and Teen Suicide

About 100 Hazelwood Southeast Middle School (HSEMS) students and staff were selected to participate in a special program, “Friends of Rachel Training,” which was held on-site at the school.

Before the training started, students agreed to listen to whomever was speaking. They also committed to being respectful and to follow instructions as they were given.

Friends of Rachel Training is a part of the larger Rachel’s Challenge, a national initiative to defeat school violence, bullying and teen suicide. The program is inspired by the life and writings of Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

Daryn Jackson, Friends of Rachel presenter, began the training by sharing her own story. She speaks all over the country to students about Rachel’s Challenge and the impact it has had on her life.

I think kids hear a lot about what they are not supposed to do, instead of what they can do,” said Jackson. “A lot of times they’re getting the wrong message from that. I believe this program helps empower kids to make a difference. They need to know that they are important. The message they should be getting is ‘You are important. You can change somebody’s life.’ We want to empower them to do something good,” she said.

Students were then allowed to share their stories.

After students shared about themselves, Jackson told students that they created a family by sharing their life experiences. She told students this new family now had their back, and they should no longer feel alone.

The Friends of Rachel Training was very powerful,” one student said.

It was hard to hear what people had to say. The most important thing I learned is that I’m not alone,” another student said.

I heard a lot of stuff that really hit home for me. I’m really glad I got to be a part of this. I want to change,” a student said.

During the event, students participated in empowerment programs and strategies that equip students to combat bullying and dispel feelings of isolation and despair, by creating a culture of kindness and compassion.

I used to bully people, but after watching the video, I learned that I should stop because the person that I bullied might not be here tomorrow,” said Jazmine Williams, HSEMS seventh grader. “I was reminded that they have feelings too,” she added.

When asked, what impact did the training have on him, Justin Fantroy, HSEMS eighth grader said, “At first, I thought it would be kind of boring, but after watching more of the video, it really hit home, “It made me think of the last impression I’ve made on people.

Being a part of the Friends of Rachel Training made me feel like there are people that feel the same way I do about some things that are hard to deal with, and that can relate to what I might be going through too,” he said.

I’m very glad I got to be a part of it all. I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned here and using it to help me deal with other challenges I have in my life now, and challenges that will come up in the future,” said Fantroy.

At the culmination of the training, students signed the Rachel’s Challenge banner, a pledge to help defeat bullying and teen suicide.

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