Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has proclaimed April 20-24, 2009, to be Character Awareness Week in Dutchess County. Character Awareness Week is intended to encourage specific activities that promote tolerance, mutual respect, healthy relationships and school safety.
“Throughout Dutchess County, schools will be hosting activities and events designed to motivate students to make positive changes in the way they interact with others,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “It is wonderful these students, although perhaps too young to remember the Columbine High School tragedy, are still being motivated to engage in positive activities and become more accepting of others.”
Character Awareness Week is a local initiative of ten school districts spearheaded by Arlington School District, in collaboration with the Dutchess County Youth Bureau, as one of several similar integrity-building initiatives being implemented in schools around the county in observance of the 10-year anniversary of the Columbine School tragedy which occurred on April 20, 1999.
For the past two years, the DCYB has worked with the Dutchess County Children’s Services Council (DCCSC) to present Rachael’s Challenge seminars to various student groups and nonprofit representatives at the DCCSC’s annual conference. Rachel’s Challenge is considered to be one of the most powerful transformative school programs in America, with its mission to reach as many people as possible with an inspiring universal message of kindness, compassion and hope. This program was named after Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine shooting. Rachel’s Challenge is the embodiment of Rachel Scott’s vision to generate a chain reaction of goodwill person-to-person that reverberates exponentially. Her extraordinary benevolence toward and acceptance of others, coupled with the poignant contents of her six diaries, have become the foundation and impetus for countless character-enhancing initiatives worldwide.
In addition to the Rachel’s Challenge seminar presentations, the Dutchess County Youth Bureau’s Youth Assets mini-grants have assisted in funding follow up activities in various schools.
Character Awareness Week activities are scheduled in Arlington High School, Dutchess County BOCES, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Jay, Roy C Ketcham, and Spackenkill High schools. Some of the activities include:
Kindness/Compliment Coupons that will be distributed to other students in a “Pay It Forward” philosophy,
Public Service Announcements, i.e., victim impact statements, of a Columbine victim and other victims,
Mix-It-Up Day during lunch,
NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) training session to teach leadership skills in the areas of prejudice reduction, violence prevention, conflict resolution, and coalition building,
Writings (poems, essays, stories), art work or media projects promoting strong character (A contest winner will be chosen from each category and the work will be placed on display.),
Chain reaction of kindness (Random acts of kindness of students posted on “hangers” throughout the school), and
Rachel’s Challenge assembly programs.
Youth Bureau Executive Director Will Sanchez said, “We are proud of all of the schools and educators in Dutchess County for their tireless efforts to help our children reach their full potential. We especially applaud those schools that will be participating in the Character Awareness Week events. We also appreciate all who, although not directly involved, strive to apply the spirit of Rachel’s Challenge, albeit in less conspicuous, but no less significant, ways.”