Friends of Rachel club aims to bring positive change

Caitlyn Pineault

Following the Rachel's Challenge presentation in early January, a group of students and faculty created a club called Friends of Rachel to continue to spread the presentation's message of kindness and compassion.

Two months ago, Rachel’s Challenge came to Wayland High School. The presentation challenged students to look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and start their own chain reaction.

Students and faculty recently accepted these challenges at the first Friends of Rachel club meeting, where they came up with a plan of action for bringing positive change to Wayland High School. The club, led by drama teacher Richard Weingartner and guidance counselor Jennifer Mast, began with a general discussion of Wayland High School culture.

“The goal was to open up a real dialogue about what goes on here at our high school, what works and what doesn’t work,” said Mast. “We were able to have a neat brainstorm session.”

“We talked not only about what problems exist, but also how we thought we could solve them,” said senior Michela Luchetti, a Being a Teenager is Hard Enough (BATHE) Co-Leader who was involved in bringing Rachel’s Challenge to the high school. “I wish we had more time; we could have talked forever.”

After the large group discussion, faculty and students split up into four action groups, “Commons Table Jumping,” “Caught in the Act,” “Positive Gossip” and “Artistic Acts of Kindness.” These groups strive to promote kindness at Wayland.

In “Commons Table Jumping,” club members will make efforts to regularly sit at unfamiliar lunch tables.

In the “Caught in the Act of Kindness,” students will observe the actions of their fellow peers, noting those who are kind and writing their actions down on strips of paper which will then be made into a paper chain.

Members of the “Positive Gossip” section will work to spread compliments and praise around the school.

“I love this idea because when you think of gossip, there is so much negativity that comes with it,” said Mast.

The final section, “Artistic Acts of Kindness,” has already visibly begun to start changing WHS by putting up signs with logos such as “Smile at the next person you see, you never know who may be having a bad day.”

Students left the meeting with positive feelings.

“Everyone had good ideas that we can actually put into action,” sophomore Martin Narciso said, who worked with the “Caught in the Act” group. “It was a really positive experience.”

“All my expectations were met,” junior Andrew Laven said. “We have many plans of action for the future. I’m definitely going to the next meeting.”

Those who attended the meeting have high hopes that Friends of Rachel will be able to change the culture of Wayland High School.

“In the group discussion we talked about the idea that talk is cheap. We can’t just talk, we have to do something,” Laven said. “I think because we realize this, and because we have broken the club into four small groups, we will be able to do something.”

“I think because we have the four small groups we’ll be able to take immediate actions so changes will happen,” said Luchetti.

However there will be challenges and obstacles to overcome along the way.

“Change is hard, in any school climate,” Mast said. “I think a lot will depend on whether or not the group can work together, can the kids feel good about trying to do this, and what kind of feedback they get from the rest of the school.”

There is a Friends of Rachel group on Facebook for students who are interested in joining the club. The small action groups will meet individually up to several times a month while the large group discussion will be held monthly.

“The clubs that are successful in this school are the ones that are driven by students and not by faculty,” said Mast. “Because of that I think this club absolutely stands a chance.”