NORFOLK-- When Dale Holbrook dropped off his 13-year-old son Duncan at Northside Middle School this morning, the talk focused on violence in schools and how times have changed. The issue has been on many parents' minds since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
"I've seen people (fight) when I was growing up and they were friends the next day," Holbrook said. "Now when that thing happens, the kid who got the worst end of the bargain is going to come back in retaliation with a gun it seems."
The new principal at his son's school does not want that type of violence for his students, which is why Dr. Mark Makovec is pleased to have the Rachel's Challenge program at Northside.
"When I look at Rachel's Challenge, I think it's a proactive opportunity for principals, assistant principals, and teachers to really be aware of what's going on with their young people so we can address the problems before it becomes a violent situation," Dr. Makovec said.
Through various workshops and activities, the program encourages students to engage in acts of kindness and respect. It helps students realize how one small act of kindness can positively impact classmates. It also stresses the importance of looking for the best in others, eliminate prejudice, treat others the way you want to be treated, choose positive influences, forgive yourself and others, and speak words of kindness not cruelty.
"As kids go through middle school, they're looking for their identity and want to find out where they fit in," Dr. Makovec said. "A lot of times kids don't understand how simple terms like 'you're ugly,' 'you're not smart' can be so detrimental to a student's development."
He also added, "Sometimes kids have those feelings and they harbor them within themselves and the feelings of isolation and resentment turn into violence."
Through Rachel's Challenge students work together on various projects to give back to the community and to make their schools more positive places.
One project students have participated in is making a kindness chain. Each link represents an act of kindness done at school. The bigger the chain, the more acts of kindness that were performed. It's a visual way for students to get the message.
Holbrook's son Duncan tells 13News he's all in. "Be nicer to people and think about stuff before you do it," Duncan said.