By Stacy Drector
In 2006, Nurse Lisa Morin-Plante started what is now the largest Rachel’s Challenge chapter in the Northeast. Over one hundred students (many join when they are in the sixth grade and continue until they graduate) participate regularly, and this year, for the first time, remote learners partake. “Kindness, compassion, love and leadership” is at the core of the chapter’s foundation. “First it starts at home, secondly it is brought to school, thirdly it goes to the community and lastly, it can change the world,” said Nurse Lisa.
There are numerous ongoing activities Every month, over 100 sandwich bags are donated to My Brother’s Tableand during Easter, students bring the bags directly to the homeless living on the streets. After every snowstorm, students shovel out the fire hydrant they have adopted in their hometowns. These students are so devoted that even Covid 19 hasn’t stopped them. Every Christmas, between 95-175 Christmas gifts are purchased for those in need. Nurse Lisa believes that it is “not about the gift; it is about the love inside. People like to give back, but don’t know how or what to do and students, faculty/staff and outside families participate in this yearly special event.” Every winter, there is a hat/mitten drive, students bake bread for the elderly, flags are put on graves and so much more. To see events, along with photos, you can look at the Rachel’s Challenge, St. Mary’s page on Facebook.
“Kids love to give back, and even though the school doesn’t require any service hours, students on their own do thousands of community service hours.” Eighth grader Meaghan Bates, a participant for three years, enjoys “baking bread for the elderly and shopping for the Christmas gifts.” Sophomore Christopher Lutchman, a member for five years, said that Rachel’s Challenge “fills me with joy knowing I made someone’s day during one of our events. I’ve been doing My Brothers Table (faithfully for the last 5 years), the Christmas project (where we do shopping for people who can’t have a Christmas), making cards, baked goods, wrapping presents, and countless other events.” Caroline Nerich, a junior, has been an active member for six years. She has been involved with “ARC, A Bed for Every Child Program, buying Christmas presents for people in need, and serving at My Brother’s Table.” Senior Vanessa Latorelli said that Rachel’s Challenge is important to her because “most of the people we help have been through so much, so to put a smile on their faces makes me the most happy I have every been.”
“Nurse Lisa has a massive heart. Not only is she the school nurse and trying to keep us safe during these times, she really cares about everyone, no matter who they are. She goes above and beyond what she’s required to do, making sure everyone (and I mean everyone) is accounted for. She is the image of Rachel’s Challenge,” said sophomore class president Lutchman. “Nurse Lisa has done so much to keep Rachel’s Challenge going strong. We are one of the only schools in the country that is still able to run this great program,” said Student Council Junior Vice President Caroline Nerich. Sophomore class Treasurer, Kayleigh Bates, said that Nurse Lisa is “always finding new ways to help our school and community in any way possible.”
This year, members created “heart strings,” a beautiful Valentine’s Day display that included the names of every student, administrator, faculty and staff member. On February 12, Rachel’s Challenge held a green and gold day to support Bishop Feehan hockey player, AJ Quetta, who was seriously injured in a recent hockey game. Along with a heart made on the school’s new 3-D printer, will be a check for almost $1,000.
Dr. John F. Dolan, Head of School, said, “Nurse Lisa is all about young people reaching their full potential. Her approach, which is to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion on our campus, is exactly why our St. Mary’s community loves her. Her work with Rachel’s Challenge is one of the shining lights for our school.”
Congratulations to Nurse Lisa and all the participants past and present on their fifteen years of kindness, compassion, love and leadership. The school and local communities look forward to the next fifteen years.