Students from Waxahachie High School and Waxahachie Global High School came together in J.W. Williams Gymnasium Thursday for the Chain Reaction Program hosted by Rachel’s Challenge.

The purpose of the program is to help students understand that it only takes one person to start a chain reaction, and to use influence to bring about positive outcomes.

“This is the follow-up to the Rachel’s Challenge school assembly program,” certified Rachel’s Challenge Presenter Cody Hodges said. “We believe that these students are in a chain reaction phase of their lives. The choices they make today are going to have a significant impact on their lives in the future.”

Hodges said they want to instill in students that their words have power, their touch has power and that it’s time to remove the mask that so many people walk around wearing each day.

“So many students come to school wearing masks,” he said. “They pretend to be someone else and they never let people see the real them. Our goal today is to encourage them to be real with themselves and their peers.”

Hodges took some time to address the students by saying, “We believe you’re in a chain reaction phase of your life.”

“Whether you realize it or not, the choices you make today, this year and this school year are going to have an impact on the rest of your life,” he said to the students. “Your choices will have an impact on your future.

He told them that every day every person starts some kind of chain reaction. He said it’s either positive or negative, and their hope is that every student would start a positive chain reaction in their life.

“We look at a chain reaction as being a self-powered movement,” Hodges said. “You, one person by yourself, can start a chain reaction. You also have an opportunity as a group to start a chain reaction in your school and to make it better for everyone else.”

There were several intense teaching segments used to emphasize the importance of starting a chain reaction. Several adult leaders from the Waxahachie community were used as facilitators for group discussions. The facilitators ranged from community volunteers to youth pastors and educators to city staff members.

One segment involved partnering with someone and listening to them for an entire minute without interrupting. The exercise was called knee to knee, and the partners had to touch knees and hands in some form. They didn’t necessarily have to hold hands, but their hands had to touch in some way. They also had to maintain eye contact for the full minute.

Hodges said the purpose of this particular exercise is to get people out of their comfort zone, but to also instill in everyone that positive touch and attention can carry a person a long way.

“We have become so disengaged as people,” he said. “Most people would rather communicate through text messages and social media, rather than sit down and have a conversation with someone. But communication and really listening to other’s problems can help start a positive chain reaction.”

Other activities utilized throughout the day involved group discussions, interactive games and a powerful exercise called Cross the Line. During Cross the Line, participants were presented with several scenarios, and if the description of the situation fit them, they were asked to Cross the Line. Hodges said what makes this exercise so powerful is the fact that students feel free to remove their masks and allow others to truly see them for who they really are.

“This particular exercise gives others a glimpse of who you are and the issues you deal with on a regular basis,” he said. “If people are allowed to see the real you, then they gain a better understanding of who you are and your situation.”

He said that after a Chain Reaction event, the goal is for all the students they come in contact with to take the idea back into their schools and be kind and compassionate toward others.

“We want students to understand their personal identity, power and uniqueness,” Hodges said. “When this day is over, we hope each one of them has learned that they are not personally defined by their circumstances and experiences.”

He added that they also want participants to come to understand that despite their personal uniqueness they share experiences with many others in the room.

“Barriers among the participants are broken down by the realization that through these shared experiences they are not alone,” he said.

“We are about, starting a chain reaction through kindness and compassion,” Hodges said. “It just takes one person to make a difference.”

About the Chain Reaction Program

Chain Reaction is a six-hour, intensive and interactive training that consists of teaching and processing segments, physical activities and full- and small-group sharing. Chain Reaction includes a cross section of the school’s population represented by 80-100 students and 20-25 adults. A minimum ratio of 1 adult to 4 students must be maintained throughout the program. It is designed to promote personal introspection, understanding of others, community building and empowerment. This is accomplished by focusing on the following themes: Take Off Your Labels; Be Who You Really Are, Appropriate Affection, Our Words Have the Power; to Hurt or Heal, You are Not Alone; We Have Shared Experiences and Today is YOUR Chain Reaction Moment.

Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.