Student seeks support for Rachel’s Challenge

Concordia High senior Haley Bowers explains Rachel’s Challenge to about three dozen participants at the community forum Tuesday at the Motherhouse.

Haley Bowers’ idea for a senior high school project isn’t just about doing a lot of work. It’s also about reaching out to her fellow students and people throughout the community, and then — she hopes — leaving a legacy when she graduates from Concordia High School in June.

Her project got a big boost Tuesday from the people gathered at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse for the ninth community forum.

Bowers has organized about 20 classmates to bring a speaker to Concordia to re-energize Rachel’s Challenge at the high school. And the Concordia Year of Peace Committee, which grew out of the community forums, has agreed to work with her to make that happen.

Three years ago, Rachel’s Challenge was big news at the high school and in Concordia. Bowers was one of the original members of the CHS Friends of Rachel Club, a nationwide movement in memory of Rachel Scott, the first of 12 students and a teacher killed in the 1999 Columbine school shooting.

The local club raised the money to bring Dana Scott, Rachel’s older sister, to Concordia to speak about the five-point challenge:

  1. Eliminate prejudice; look for the best in others.
  2. Dare to dream; set goals and keep a journal.
  3. Choose positive influences.
  4. Focus on kind words and little acts of kindness.
  5. Start a chain reaction.

Bowers was one of the original FOR Club members, and today she acknowledges that enthusiasm flagged at the high school as the club’s adviser and some of the founding members left the school.

“I was one of those who didn’t go to all the meetings,” the senior said Tuesday. “So we need to keep it important and interesting, and get younger students involved to keep it going.”

(There is also a Friends of Rachel Club at Concordia Junior High School, but the two local programs are not connected.)

Bowers’ also working to get the broader community involved. That, in part, was her reason for speaking to the three dozen or so attending Tuesday’s community forum. And her reception was very positive.

The newly re-energized Friends of Rachel Club at the high school hopes to raise $2,900 to bring a speaker from the Rachel’s Challenge organization to Concordia in April, the 11th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

The speaker would lead a schoolwide assembly and then speak at an evening event at the Brown-Grand Theatre.

So far the students have raised about $1,000, Bowers said. And several of those attending Tuesday’s working lunch handed her personal checks after her presentation.

Anyone wishing to make a donation may send it to Haley Bowers at Concordia High School, 436 W. 10th St., Concordia 66901. Checks should be made out to “Friends of Rachel.” Or, for information, you may contact Bowers at

Other items on the agenda of Tuesday’s working lunch included:

• A report from the Concordia Year of Peace Committee about the Civility Pledge signature drive. A full-page ad was published in the Concordia Blade-Empire Feb. 10, with 230 signatures. More than 250 pledges have been signed, as of Tuesday, and more signatures continue to come in, according to Sister Jean Rosemarynoski.

During the working lunch Tuesday at the Motherhouse, Steve Mitchell, left, and Cecelia Thrash review plans for the Concordia Community Garden of Hope.

• Information on Dr. Donna Beegle, a nationally recognized expert on generational poverty who will be in Concordia for a workshop and an evening lecture March 30. Her visit is being sponsored by the Poverty Small Group of the community forum, the Sisters of St. Joseph and Cloud County Community College. For details, contact Sister Jean at 243-2149 or

• An update on what has now been named the Concordia Community Garden of Hope. The committee working on this project, on a 100-by200-foot plot on the northeast corner of the Motherhouse grounds, plans an educational session and signup meeting at 7 p.m. March 4 in the Motherhouse Auditorium. More details will be available soon.

Tuesday’s session was the ninth in a series of  “working lunches” hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. The meetings, which are open to everyone in Concordia, began in early 2009 as a way of identifying problems in the community and seeking solutions. The 10th in the series will be April 29 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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