Hoquiam Middle School eighth-grader Thyme Chesterman had good reason for spearheading — along with her best friend, and fellow eighth-grader, Linzey Blanchard — the effort to bring the anti-bullying campaign Rachel’s Challenge to the school on Thursday.
Long teased for her unusual name, Chesterman sees the problem of bullying in schools as more of a practical “respect issue.”
“You can’t just think you can tell someone off and get away with it when you get older,” she said. “ If you pick on someone at a job and do those kinds of things, you’re going to get fired.”
She and Blanchard did odd jobs, such as mowing lawns over the summer, to raise the $2,000 (along with a matching amount from the Hoquiam School District) to bring the project to the school as their Girl Scout Silver Project, which calls for action to change the world for the better. The Challenge is inspired by the memory of Rachel Scott (the first victim of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999) who promoted the effects of compassion and kindness in her journals, school essays and through her actions while she was alive.
After hearing Scott’s story, the children were “challenged” to “be the Rachel” in someone else’s life — inviting someone sitting alone to their lunch table, being there for someone after they’ve been bullied, making those new to their surroundings feel more comfortable and letting people know of their worth.
Students and teachers alike found the presentations, which were part of an all-day event for the school — including a workshop for select students who have shown leadership qualities — emotionally moving. Hoquiam Middle School Dean of Students, Shayne Folkers, said she saw it as a important exercise for the school.
“I just want these kids to know how much they’re valued,” she said.
It also was touching for Chesterman, who said bullying is part of everyday life for many middle schoolers.
“It was really, really touching. I ended up crying, and was hugging so many people,” said Chesterman. She and Blanchard participate in band, and like to draw anime and write stories for the website Creepy Pasta.
She said a lot of the things the Challenge asked of students may seem challenging, like finding new friends or standing up for people, but she was inspired to try even harder.
Chesterman’s mom, Cinnamon, who informed the girls of the Challenge’s existence after seeing it in the media, said the problem of bullying has been something her daughter and friends have been talking about eliminating since they first experienced it as younger children.
She said she has long given her daughter “a shoulder to cry on” when needed, but thinks that sometimes it’s simply not enough.
“You try to do as much as you can as a parent, but I think they really need the backing of their peers.”