Versailles students got a big opportunity Thursday — the chance to start a chain reaction of kindness.

Versailles students got a big opportunity Thursday — the chance to start a chain reaction of kindness.

From high school down to kindergarten, students heard a strong message against bullying from Rachel's Challenge, a non-profit organization based on the writings and life of Rachel Scott.

At the age of 17, Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School in the 1999 shooting there. Though she died young, Rachel left a journal. Years later, millions have been inspired through her thoughts on ethics and caring.

In special assemblies and meetings held throughout the day, different age groups heard from a certified speaker from Rachel's Challenge — but all focused on encouraging positive, caring behaviors through presentations based on concepts from Rachel's writings.

In the high school program, students were challenged to look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and to start their own chain reaction of kindness.

Unlike many school assemblies, the impetus for this one at Versailles came not just from teachers or administrators but from students and parents, according to Morgan County CLEAR consultant Donna Chapman.

CLEAR (Community Leaders Educating About Resistance) is a local nonprofit coalition that works to combat high risk behaviors and promote a safe and healthy community.

Chapman said she was approached by several different people about bringing the Rachel's Challenge to Morgan County to help address bullying issues. While CLEAR received a grant to bring the program to Stover schools in November, the grant for Versailles was not funded.

With significant interest in the program, however, CLEAR was able to raise the money through local donations supplemented by the Department of Health and ACT Missouri.

In a survey prior to the program, Versailles students provided anonymous information on bullying at the school through a series of questions.

"It was surprising how much information they provided, but I don't think Morgan County schools have any more bullying than anywhere else," Chapman said. "The trouble is that a lot of it happens outside of school through social media and things like that. What was also interesting is that many of the bullies are often bulled themselves."