NORFOLK - What do schools in Norfolk have in common with schools in Virginia Beach? Students who want to solve problems and make their campuses more positive places.
Students at Northside Middle School in Norfolk and Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach are teaming up to deal with bullying and negativity by embracing kindness with the Rachel's Challenge program.
Princess Anne Middle was the first school in Hampton Roads to get involved in the national program a few years ago; Rachel's Challenge just got started at Northside.
"Some people might be a little reluctant at first to do it or they don't want to, but if you keep pushing and be kind and do those little things that show people you're out there and you care, it'll work out," says Will Sexton, the Rachel's Club president at Princess Anne Middle School.
The goal of the program is to get students to look out for each other - to spread random acts of kindness to foster a sense of inclusion, respect and compassion. It's about getting at the seeds of potential negative attitudes and behavior before they take hold.
Princess Anne students told the Norfolk students about things that have worked at their school - like anti-bullying bracelets, kindness chains where each link represents an act of kindness at school, sports events to get students pumped up, and community philanthropy.
The new superintendent of Norfolk Public Schools, Doctor Samuel King, looked on as the kids engaged in their first round of dialogue to understand each other and their problems and ideas on how to spread of the principles of The Challenge.
He sees this as an important part of something new he wants to bring to Norfolk Public Schools -- character building, social adjustment, and conflict resolution.
"If we can teach these children now how to make decisions, how to take the high road and not the low road and how to communicate with others and be models, then it's going to have implications for what they do later in life," Dr. King believes. "I see this becoming contagious across the district."
"You just don't stop trying," Sexton adds. "It worked in our school because we pushed so much. We've been doing it for three years, you just don't stop trying."
The students at Princess Anne Middle School give credit to their adult counselor, who keeps pushing and motivating them. Audra Patti was named "Teacher of the Year" at Princess Anne Middle, largely because of her work with Rachel's Challenge.