Rachel’s Challenge: Do You Accept?

By Arturo Compean

George Ranch introduced Rachel’s Challenge to the students in the 2012-2013 school year to “start a chain reaction.” Since then, the school has embraced the challenge of being kind and compassionate. To remind ourselves of this promise, the school plays Rachel’s Challenge music over the intercom before first period begins.

On Tuesday, Jan. 21, George Ranch hosted a second Rachel’s Challenge assembly for the freshmen and sophomores, and another on Wednesday, Jan. 22 for the Principal’s Action Committee (PAC) leaders. The freshmen saw the introduction to Rachel’s Challenge and the sophomores saw Rachel’s Legacy, the second installment to Rachel’s Challenge. However, the PAC leaders volunteered to undergo a Rachelle’s Challenge workshop. More than a hundred PAC representatives and teachers underwent this new challenge to truly open up, drop barriers, and send and show compassion.

I underwent this new challenge and at first, like most people, I was skeptical of this event. However, I did get to miss all my classes for the day, so I didn’t mind doing something different. To get our blood pumping, our two Rachel’s Challenge hosts, Cody and Nasha, prompted us to run from our seats to other seats if a certain phrase related to us. Such as “If you’ve ever been out of the country, move!”

After moving around, Cody sat us down to tell us about Rachel and her legacy. Many of the students had already seen this from last year’s assembly, so it wasn’t that big of a surprise.

To lighten up the mood, Nasha told us that we were going to play a game called Thunderstorm. Everyone would have to run across the gym to designated areas called Thunder, Lightning, Hurricane, Flood, and Tornado. If she called Thunder or Lightning, we would run to those areas. If she yelled Hurricane we would run into the middle of the room and huddle up, if she yelled Flood we would have to drop to the floor and swim, and lastly if she yelled Tornado we would spin in a circle. It was a fun game, however, there was no real point in the activity other than to get everyone up and moving.

Cody then asked us to pair up in groups of four. The object of this group was to find two things: what we all had in common and what all made us unique. Every group shared to the entire assembly and interesting things were learned about how people were unique.

Following that group, we had to pair up with someone we didn’t know. She asked us to play three rounds of rock, paper, scissors. Lucky for me, I won. We were going to play a game called “the bird and the perch.” I was the bird, and my partner was the perch. All the “perches” were asked to form a circle outside of the circle of “birds.” We rotated in a circle till the music stopped and we had to find one another. Whoever was last for the bird to sit on the perch, you won a grand prize of wonderful baby food.

After all the baby food was eaten, we were asked to say goodbye to our perch and find someone new. We were going to do a new game called Eye to Eye, Hand to Hand, and Knee to Knee Conversation. The point was to give 100% attention to your partner, who would spend about a minute talking about whatever they wanted. It was definitely awkward. We didn’t really know what to do.

Luckily, Cody saved us from the awkward talk and we came back as a group. However, we were just going to get into another uncomfortable talk. Cody shared his life story with us. Due to the confidentiality of the event, I won’t discuss his personal life, however, I can say that many people were touched and felt for him. I definitely felt a sense of compassion for him. It was at this moment that the thundering of sympathy begin to grow within me, brewing into a storm by the end of the event.

Cody asked us to go back with our partner and talk with them again, eye to eye, hand to hand, and knee to knee. My partner shared few things with me, but I didn’t share that much. Butwhen we looked around, I could see other partners really sharing some deep things. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about but many groups were crying, or hugging one another.

Cody and Nasha called on the teachers to come up and get a clipboard with number that corresponded with the number on our nametags we got at the beginning of the assembly. We were sent to our leader, the teachers, and were set in a group with a senior, junior, sophomore, and a freshman. Cody explained to us that we were going to have a working lunch where we ate as we discussed a few things on the basis of “if you really knew me.” We would start off saying “if you really knew me” and saying something about ourselves that no one would really know just by looking at us.

After eating we got back in this giant circle to play another game. We would hold hands and try our best to pass a hoolahoop to each person without unlinking hands. Just like before, when the music stops and whoever the hoolahoop is on at that moment, they would have to eat baby food; and some of that baby food wasn’t tasteful at all.

Following the game we sat back down so Nasha could share her life story. Again, due to confidentiality, I will not share what she said in good faith. Just as with Cody, I felt for Nasha. Her story really touched me and I can only say how much I could relate to her.

Now the biggie came, Cross the Line. We were asked to all stand behind a line and following a series of statements, if any were applicable to you, we were asked to cross the line to the other side and stare back at the group we left behind. We would then walk back to join the group and wait for the next statement to be called. Some of the statements asked related to race, religion, domestic violence, sexual orientation, drug and alcohol abuse, and many more.

It was shocking to see people I knew, people I talked to everyday and I would never have guessed that these things have happened, or is still happening, to them. It was these statements that dumbfounded me, I was exasperated at how many of my friends had to cross the line. I was angry, I was furious, I was overwhelmed with so much sympathy for them. I wanted to just grab those people and hug them tight, say I’m sorry for all those things that happened to them. But what got to me the most was how many times I crossed the line.

There were many statements that I crossed the line, and had people cross the line with me. I stared back at my friends, silently, motionless, wondering what they were thinking. How are they looking at me now that I crossed this line? Will they look at me in the same way again or will things change? It wasn’t until it was over that one of my friends came over to me and hugged me tight. With tears in her eyes, she told me she was sorry, sorry for all the horrible things that happened to me and how I didn’t deserve any of it. She told me she loved me, and I couldn’t hold back my own tears.

We were asked to go back to our small groups with our teachers to discuss what happened during the Cross the Line activity. We all shared with each other that we really didn’t believe the things that happened everyone else and we shared this sympathy with everyone.

Cody and Nasha walked around with a microphone so that anyone who wanted to talk, could, and share whatever they wanted to say. Many people stood up and shared about their experiences at the assembly.

When everyone got a chance to speak, Cody and Nasha thanked us for having them and urged us to keep the chain reaction going. Not just today or tomorrow, or even the rest of the week. Things might change for four days, but what about that fifth day? Will the chain reaction continue or will it die off?

This is the challenge we accepted.

This is the challenge we will fight to keep going.

This is Rachel’s Challenge.