Rachel’s Challenge FAQs
All your questions about us answered below
Rachel’s Challenge is a highly effectively violence and self-harm prevention program with the mission of creating safer, more connected school communities. It was started by the family of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shooting, and brings healing and hope through its live and digitally-delivered social-emotional and mental health content.
For more about Rachel’s Challenge, click here.
Rachel’s Challenge was created after the Columbine school shooting, in honor of Rachel and the other victims lost on that terrible day. As the first mass school shooting, the Columbine tragedy was a catalyst for action for many people.
One month after Columbine, Rachel’s dad, Darrell Scott, was asked to speak before a Congressional Subcommittee on school violence. Rather than focus on the symptoms, he spoke about the hearts of our young people; that by placing so much emphasis on performance in our homes and schools, we are neglecting the social-emotional and mental health needs of our youth. This oversight – and the subsequent deficit it creates – is an underlying cause of violence in schools. This message resonated, and soon Darrell was being asked to share Rachel’s story with groups around the country and the world.
Darrell quickly realized that Rachel’s story had a profound impact on those who heard it. In 2001 he formed a non-profit organization with his wife, Sandy. They continued to travel the world telling Rachel’s story until 2003, when they decided to focus on speaking primarily in schools.
Since that time, more than 30 million people have heard Rachel’s story in live settings around the world. Every year, close to 1 million students, educators and parents across the US, Canada, Mexico, and other countries are engaged in Rachel’s Challenge programs.
For more about the history of Rachel’s Challenge, click here.
Rachel’s Challenge envisions schools full of hope, free from harassment, violence, and self-harm, where teachers are free to teach and students are inspired to learn. We work to create safer, more connected school communities.
Creating a school culture that is less susceptible to bullying and violence is possible. We see it happening every day in socially and culturally diverse schools across North America.
We also follow CDC directives for reducing suicide rates among teens. For more on how Rachel’s Challenge prevents suicide, click here
After Rachel’s Challenge, schools report less harassment and isolation. They see bullying incidents go down and disciplinary referrals decrease.
Eight school shootings that we know of have been prevented. On average, students, parents and educators report more than 150 suicides averted annually. Rachel’s Challenge receives hundreds of letters from students who chose not to end their lives and sought help after participating in one of our programs. This adds up to thousands of lives saved over our 20-plus-year history.
For more on our impact, click here.
No! While our primary focus is K-12 for students, educators and caregivers, we also have effective programming for college level and businesses / corporations. These programs adapt the keynote addresses (Rachel’s Challenge) and follow-up trainings toward making the campus or businesses safer and more productive through positive connections. Business that invite Rachel’s Challenge trainings can see improvements in performance, employee satisfaction and well-being, and leadership quality. Contact your local Rachel’s Challenge representative for more info by quickly filling out this simple form.
We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It costs money to develop, maintain, support and deliver our programming to schools. At this time, we do charge for our programs. The cost depends on the type and amount of programming selected. We would love to be able to deliver our programs for free – and it’s a goal we’re constantly working toward.
As a non-profit we also actively fundraise. The monies raised are used to keep the cost of our programs as low as possible. And we work with schools to help them find the funding needed to bring us in. Any donation to Rachel’s Challenge is 100% tax-deductible. Our EIN is 84-1557094. Donations can be made on our website or Facebook page. Your local Rachel’s Challenge rep would love to answer any questions you might have and share program pricing. Please contact your rep by clicking here.
Neuroscience indicates that three things are required to sustain behavioral change:
1) a significant emotional catalyst;
2) time to process and find meaning; and
3) purposeful, persistent, repetitive action.
When all three of these are present, the brain will actually create new neuro-pathways that change behavior.
Rachel’s Challenge travels to schools across the US and Canada as an assembly program; but we are far more than an assembly program. Our on-site assemblies provide a powerfully unique emotional catalyst. We also facilitate a student training to help process and find meaning in the emotion; and we help start a Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club that is a service organization designed to turn feelings into action.
In Fall 2020 Rachel’s Challenge Digital was launched as a complement to our on-site assembly programs, providing teachers with at least six weeks of lessons and daily activities (that can be stretched out over the course of the school year). This content is for use with students in both physical and virtual classrooms, and provides further deepens the impact by providing opportunities for students to process and put their learnings into practice.
Our programs are intentionally designed to work with the other initiatives already going on in the school or business to promote a positive culture. So, we can be the emotional catalyst needed to gain traction with existing efforts. Or, we also offer a number of additional trainings and tools for both students and educators; depending on how deep a school would like to go with us and what they are already doing.
See more about our programs here.
Rachel’s Challenge has refined its programs over the past 22 years with more than 30 million participants. Over that time period, we’ve consistently maintained a 98% recommendation rate; as well as a 98% score on program relatability and effectiveness.
An independent study (MDEd 2014) concluded that, “Rachel’s Challenge provides sustainable evidence-based, data-driven improvement that meets SAMHSA requirements. Their partner schools achieve statistically significant gains in community engagement, faculty/student relationships, leadership potential, and school climate, along with reductions in bullying, alcohol/tobacco and other drug use.”
Our own study of 9,881 demographically and socio-economically diverse students across North America indicated students felt safer and were more inclined to intervene in a bullying situation after participating in Rachel’s Challenge programming:
Schools consistently report less harassment and isolation after having Rachel’s Challenge. They see bullying incidents go down and disciplinary referrals decrease. Eight school shootings that we know of have been prevented. And students, parents and educators report more than 150 suicides averted annually.
There is also ample research indicating the power of positive connection on both behavior and performance in the classroom:
• Greeting a student by name, along with appropriate physical contact increases a student’s level of engagement by up to 27%. (Allday & Pakurar)
• Students making a meaningful connection with their teachers increased graduation rates by 18%. (Edutopia)
• Students ages 5-12 have a 31% increase in academic performance when they feel Hope (+13%), Engagement (+10%), and Well Being (+8%). (CASEL)
Dr. Robert Marzano, educator, researcher and best-selling author says, “Rachel’s Challenge is the most powerful intervention I have seen in my 45 years in education.”
Many schools have budgets to bring in programs like Rachel’s Challenge. Often schools use SEL or mental/behavioral health funds from their budgets or a local agency. Often the PTA or PTO, a private donor, or a local business or service club like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc. will help with the funding. Some communities have credit unions, hospitals, and other community- focused institutions that are looking to give back to their communities by sponsoring this type of training. Many mental health organizations want to fund behavioral health initiatives in schools. Rachel’s Challenge has used these funding sources effectively. There are also a number of local, state and federal grants available for these types of programs. There are even standing grants already in place to provide our program in some states. Your local Rachel’s Challenge rep is happy to discuss ways to find the funding for a Rachel’s Challenge program. Contact your regional partnership manager here.
We hope so. Rachel’s Challenge is designed to create a safe place for students, and adults, to share feelings and emotions that already exist – before they lead to problems for the individual or school community. We work with educators and mental health professionals to ensure that all of our programs are trauma informed and age-appropriate. For example, there is no mention of Columbine in the elementary program. We work with the school to help them determine which programs are best suited for their students, and ask that the school have counselors available for students as programs are presented.
Our objective is to work with schools and individuals to help keep a crisis from occurring in the first place. Understanding and managing our own emotions, interacting appropriately with others, and making good decisions are all learned behaviors. Our programs are trauma informed and designed to help students, and adults, learn these life skills and connect in appropriate ways with others.
We are not equipped to intervene directly in an individual bullying or crisis situation. We recommend that people find a local resource dedicated to crisis management; or contact one of the crisis hotlines in the ‘Crisis Hotlines’ section of our website.
However, we often come into a community following a tragedy or crisis to help with the healing and rebuilding process. Rachel’s Challenge is a powerful and effective way to help people find hope and inspire positive action and encourage growth and change. But only when the community is ready.
The CDC’s guidelines for preventing bullying specify exactly the kinds of measures, tools and actions that Rachel’s Challenge is built on. By addressing these recommendations, Rachel’s Challenge is a proven, effective anti-bullying tool.
Colloquially however, we don’t say we are, “anti” anything; the CDC has further identified that people who are bullies are often victims of bullying or other abuse themselves. Programs that target bullies and further separate, alienate or isolate these individuals can make the problem worse, not better.
Instead, we are, “pro-kindness” and work to prevent violence and self-harm by helping schools create a culture of inclusion and connection. When students feel safe and like they belong, they are more connected. When they are more connected, they are less likely to hurt themselves or others. Schools that have Rachel’s Challenge report fewer incidents of bullying, fewer disciplinary referrals, and higher test scores. Of the thousands of unsolicited correspondences we receive annually, consistently around 150 are from students that were going to take their own lives, but didn’t because of Rachel’s Challenge being in their school.
For more on how Rachel’s Challenge prevents bullying, click here.
No. Our non-profit charter specifically states that we are a non-political, non-religious organization. Rachel was a person of faith and we don’t apologize for that. However, there is no religious content in any of our programs, nor do we champion any political agenda. We simply share the universal truths of kindness, compassion, respect for self and others, and the power of deliberately reaching out with kind words and actions.
Our approach is science-based, and endorsed by some of the leading voices in education. We champion the hope and safety that these healthy connections bring to schools, businesses and communities.
Violence in our schools manifests in many forms, of which school shootings are by far the worst. Our Rachel was the first victim of the Columbine Massacre; the gunmen killed her outside the school as they were entering. She died from multiple gunshot wounds.
All forms of violence are destructive and can lead to escalation. It rarely starts with deadly actions; school shootings are the endpoint, not the beginning.
Rachel’s Challenge is committed to a singular focus: addressing the root causes of violence with actionable, practical measures. Our approach is science-based, and our results over the past 20+ years speak to the effectiveness of what we do. Creating a Culture of Kindness and Compassion in schools isn’t just a feel-good platitude; it is a proven methodology that brings real and lasting change.
There are many important issues surrounding violence in schools and school shootings. In addition to mental health, these include: how guns are accessed, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and abuse, housing and economic distress, sexual abuse, gang involvement, and other problems.
There are an abundance of organizations dedicated to addressing these issues from all sides, but there is only one Rachel’s Challenge. We are unique in our approach, and a pioneer in our field. It is important that we do not distract the focus of our core mission, or dilute our resources and effort.
In regards to the issue of guns specifically: some organizations may focus on, “hardening the target,” while other organizations focus on, “gun control.”
Our focus is on reaching the hearts of students. Our position has always been that if we model reaching out with kindness and compassion, and teach young people to treat each other with respect and dignity, school shootings will fade; along with all the other negative outcomes that precede them.
This is why Rachel’s Challenge remains, as it has always been, a non-political, non-religious, and non-profit organization. It is also the way we honor the legacy of Rachel, whose actions and words define our practice of connecting people through positive action.
We invite all who appreciate what we do to help by supporting us.
For safety and privacy reasons we do not publish our school program schedule. Most schools, however, publicize their Community Event (evening presentation for adults). It is best to check with your local schools to see if they are having Rachel’s Challenge, and how you can participate.
Rachel’s Challenge also speaks at many conferences around the country and sponsors quarterly informational events at our offices in Centennial, CO which are open to the public. If you are interested in finding a school or attending an event in your area you may also contact your local Rachel’s Challenge representative for guidance.
If you’d like to bring Rachel’s Challenge to your school, or to speak to a representative, click here.