VIRGINIA BEACH -- There is nothing more deafening than the sound of fired-up children. The proud kids at Princess Anne Elementary School in Virginia Beach are ready to make their school an even better place to grow and learn.
"They are so excited!" said Annie Johnson, the guidance counselor at PAES.
Princess Anne is one of the latest schools in Hampton Roads to adopt Rachel's Challenge -- a program that uses workshops and special assemblies to encourage students to engage in acts of kindness and respect.
It's a program they're taking to heart and wearing on their sleeves -- literally. T-shirts with the program's messages are popping up through the hallways: dream big; choose positive influences; start a chain reaction of kindness; compassion over bullying and hate.
In the first few weeks of this brand new school year, the message is coming in loud and clear.
"I learned that no matter what you look like and stuff, you can hang out with whoever you want or you can be whoever you are inside of you," said student Reiley Syrious.
"It helps kids understand the concept of being nice and how it can spread," noted student Emma Boone.
Johnson sees the bigger picture. Start early with these children, enhance their learning and understanding of the Rachel's Challenge program so that when they move up to Princess Anne Middle School, where the Challenge is already going strong, and then to high school, hopefully it will make a big dent in bullying, intimidation, and lack of respect.
"How much more potent is this going to be when the kids have already spent six years - K through 5 - already embracing this?" Johnson said. "This is going to be who they are, part of their character -- to constantly be kind."