Respect project will kick off on Jan. 17

Robert Smith

Pawhuska Public Schools is scheduled Jan. 17 to begin a major initiative to encourage respect, kindness and compassion. The school district will be working on the project with a nonprofit called Rachel's Challenge, which is based in Littleton, Colo.

Rachel's Challenge is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first victim of the Columbine school massacre in 1999. Twelve students and a teacher died in that incident. Rachel's Challenge offers presentations, training events, community events and professional development.

The upcoming sessions in Pawhuska are the result of the efforts of school boosters at Indian Camp Elementary School. The Indian Camp Elementary boosters applied for a grant from the Pawhuska Community Foundation, and that grant is being spent to cover the cost of the events planned for Jan. 17.

Jourdan Foran of Pawhuska, who is a Regional Partnership Manager for Rachel's Challenge, said there will be four events Jan. 17, three of which will be at the Constantine, located on Main Street in Pawhuska. The events at the theater will include a secondary school assembly at 8:30 a.m., an elementary school assembly at 10 a.m., and a communitywide event at 6 p.m.

There is also a leadership training planned for 12:40 p.m. Jan. 17 at the high school. This event will be offered to a small group of students in grades 7-12, Foran said.

“We're really hoping that the community will come out in support of it,” Foran said, clarifying that you don't have to have children in Pawhuska schools or have some kind of professional connection to the schools to attend the community event at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome, she said.

Foran, who is a partnership manager for Rachel's Challenge for several states and some locations internationally, has worked for the organization for several years, from 2009-13 and again from 2015 to the present. She started out as a speaker for Rachel's Challenge and joined the organization full-time as one of its marketing directors. Then, from 2013-15, she took a break to work on a master's degree.

“I'm really hoping that this will just engage local businesses to become involved as partners,” Foran said.

Since Rachel's Challenge was created, more than 23 million people have heard Rachel Joy Scott's story in live settings around the world, at least eight school shootings have reportedly been prevented, and over 500 suicides have been averted, the organization says in literature describing its activities. The Scott family and other Rachel's Challenge certified presenters have also reached large numbers of people via popular broadcast media outlets.

— Updated 5:35 p.m. Jan. 9