Westwood Welcomes Rachel’s Challenge

Jessica Sheldon , Features Editor

On October 1, 2012, the Rachel’s Challenge Organization came to Westwood Regional Jr. /Sr. High School. A representative showed the staff and students a presentation on Rachel Scott, and how her values can start a chain reaction.

Scott was the first victim of the Columbine Shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado Springs, C.O. Though Scott died on April 20, 1999 during the shooting, her values and ideas were passed on through her journals and papers. Her story has since then turned into an organization recognized worldwide.

To kick off New Jersey’s Week of Respect, Rachel’s Challenge presented students and staff with five simple challenges, all with the core value of having a positive attitude towards oneself and others. Students were shown the presentation, then given the opportunity to sign a banner confirming that they had accepted Rachel’s challenges. These challenges were:

  1. Do not be prejudiced towards others; look for the best in others.


  1. Dream big and keep a journal of your goals and how you’re pursuing them.


  1. Choose positive influences.


  1. Speak to others with kind words.


  1. Tell those you love how much they mean to you.


During the second half of the day, 100 student leaders nominated by teachers were trained by the speaker to be leaders of the Friends Of Rachel (FOR) club. The FOR Club members are there to help keep the school spirit positive, and help put ideas into action. “I believe that Westwood High School is not the adult’s school; however it is the student’s school. Anytime students can get together to develop and create a climate and environment that is inclusive, dynamic, and excellent, I will support it,” said Vice Principal, Joshua Cogdill.

The speaker gave students positive ways to diffuse negative situations. “I definitely learned things I hadn’t really thought of,“ said Corinne Myers, a member of the FOR Club.

Additionally, students were split into discussion groups headed by different staff members. Within these groups, they discussed things in the school that need improvement, and later, positive ways the school could improve them.

These ideas were shared amongst the entire group, and some are now being put into action. “One of the cool ideas we talked about was a wall of hand prints symbolizing our commitment to making Westwood a more positive place,” said senior Dylan Paul, a FOR Club member, “and now at meetings we’re working on using different departments to make it happen.” Another member came up with the idea for a Twitter account with positive messages.

Rachel’s Challenge was an idea Cogdill brought to Westwood, “In my prior place of employment I was lucky to be a part of this activity, which the student council brought to the school. The presentation and program moved me and still impacts how I try to live my life.”

There was also an evening program hosted by Westwood High School that was open to the community. Many staff members, students, and parents attended to support the program.

There are already some evident changes at Westwood High School: “The students have been eager to plan and implement ideas that will have a lasting impact on the culture and climate of the building.  I am humbled by the students passion and love for their school and classmates,” Cogdill said.