One morning last year, the freshman class at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken arrived at school to find the outside of their lockers covered with post-it notes.
However, this was not an upperclassmen prank. Senior Amanda DelRossi from Medford said the post-its were actually positive.
“Someone took Post-It notes and wrote inspirational quotes on them,” she said.
Such a gesture may be extraordinary at some schools. For students at Bishop Eustace, it was just another act of kindness thanks to the impact of the Friends of Rachel Club.
DelRossi, Medford residents Caroline Fish and Sarah Keane, and Voorhees resident Alexis Mignogna are four Bishop Eustace students who are leaders in the club, which is dedicated to the memory of Rachel Scott, the first victim who was shot during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
Scott was a strong-willing high school junior who cared deeply about others. She also liked to write, and her writing helped spur Rachel’s Challenge, a national program promoting kindness throughout school communities.
The four student leaders were very young when Columbine took place. However, they do not need to remember the event to realize the impact it had on the world.
Keane, a junior, said she heard of Rachel’s Challenge prior to attending Bishop Eustace, but she really became touched after seeing the Rachel’s Challenge presentation her freshman year.
“The most that I got out of it was the reaction and the impact it had on others,” Keane said.
Mignogna, a sophomore, said she joined the club her freshman year just to have an extracurricular activity to do. She never imagined becoming a leader within her own community.
“I wanted to bring Rachel’s message to my own life,” she said.
Mignogna has been successful in doing that. This past summer, she was named a national youth anti-bullying ambassador after entering an essay contest with Teen Vogue magazine. In October, she helped organize Be Blue, a school wide anti-bullying day. Students left their fingerprints on a banner in the school cafeteria to support the effort.
Mignogna has overcome her struggles with bullying. She is now spreading an anti-bullying message to her peers. She has seen other students have a change of heart when they see others performing kind acts.
“There’s a very drastic change in the way they look at others and themselves,” she said.
To help promote its message, the club meets weekly to come up with new activities to bring the student body together. Some of these activities revolve around the seasons. The club recently did an activity where students write compliments about others on pumpkins.
In addition, there’s a subgroup with the club called Rachel’s Corner that takes time during the school day to perform kind acts.
“We just do little acts of kindness and give them anonymously to others,” Keane said.
Fish said one of her favorite activities was when students wrote kind, anonymous notes to each other. She wrote an anonymous note to one of her friends and said the impact it had on her was incredible.
“Just to see the smile on her face was really nice,” Fish said.
For all four of these student leaders, the message of Rachel’s Challenge goes well beyond being a good friend. It also means being kind to strangers and people from other social circles.
Interacting with others was an idea DelRossi brought forward to Liz Cranston, the club’s advisor. She asked if the school would do a challenge day where the students would be encouraged to interact with people they hadn’t talked to before.
“We would try to learn more about others, about ourselves and about our environment,” DelRossi said.
DelRossi said the club and the activities have allowed her to make friends she never thought she’d have. The Friends of Rachel Club has become one of Bishop Eustace’s largest clubs. It hosts a wide variety of students from different grades and backgrounds.
DelRossi said no one discovered who wrote those inspirational quotes for the freshmen. In the end, it doesn’t matter who did it. The students in the Friends of Rachel Club know their message is being heard among their peers.
DelRossi hopes other students will become student leaders and follow her peers’ message in keeping Scott’s message alive.
“I hope they come join the club, but more importantly, I hope they stay involved,” DelRossi said.