School program challenges kids to be civil to each other

FRESNO, Calif.

Amanpreet Johal was born in the United States, but for many years she felt like an outsider. The 8th grader says bullies made her a target because she is Punjabi.

"The terrorist attack on 911 they would say oh are you carrying bombs on you or something and that would make me feel real bad," said Monroe student Amanpreet Johal.

"We would start making fun of this one guy and he would not like it and he would tell the teacher," said Monroe student Fernando Perez who admits he was a bully.

Life at Monroe Elementary has changed for both Fernando and Amanpreet. They are feeling the effects of Rachel's Challenge -- a program with a simple message: perform good deeds, be kind, and respect your peers.

"The power of the program is how you can make someone's life or day the best day ever or the worst day ever so it's all about how you affect people's feelings," said Danita Ramos.

Monroe now has a chain links club. Kids plan positive activities for their campus. Every time a student does a good deed, they write it down on paper. It's getting so popular that classes compete against each other to see who can collect the most. The chain links are getting longer every day while bullying incidents are shrinking.

Rachel's Challenge was created following the death of Rachel Scott -- the first student to die during the Columbine High School massacre. Rachel's diary and essays challenging people to be more civil to each other have spawned a movement across the country. 43 schools in Fresno County are getting the message, Monroe elementary was among the first to sign on.

Since Monroe implemented Rachel's Challenge last fall, suspensions are down by 50-percent. Last year at this time there were 15 physical fights, and this year? Zero.

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