Have you ever wanted to make a change in someone’s life?
Students may have the chance to make a small difference in someone’s life at Rocky Mountain College’s Respect Rally, being held on March 2 on the RMC Green from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The Rally’s mission is to encourage people to stop using the “R” word, or “retard(ed),” and to make students more aware of the words they use in everyday conversation. For those who would like to do more than take a pledge, RMC will also be hosting part of the Special Olympics Montana (SOMT) Area Games in late April. Students, faculty, staff, and community members are encouraged to come and cheer these athletes on as they are competing throughout the day.
Last year, RMC held its first event for National Pledge Day, a day where people pledge to stop derogatorily misusing the word “retard(ed).” is event became known around campus as the Respect Rally. In 2015, 80 people, including staff, faculty, community members, and RMC students took the pledge to stop misusing the “R” word and to start thinking about respect. The event first came about when RMC sophomore Emily Schaff reached out to the regional director of the Special Olympics for the Montana area, Jami Williamson. Schaff continued to build relationships with employees and volunteers for the Special Olympic Programs, and eventually the Respect Rally was born.
As part of her work-study duties in the office of Community and Spiritual Life on campus, Schaff was encouraged to focus on an area that she was passionate about. Her inspiration for reaching out to SOMT and creating the event, said Schaff, was the story of her older brother Skyler. “He’s a special needs indi- vidual,” she said. “Skyler has taught me patience and what it means to not judge a book by its cover. I can genuinely say that kindest people you will ever meet are those who have the most positive outlook on life, and those people, to me, are special needs individuals.” Because of her brother’s story, Schaff now feels strongly about those who are in the special needs community. The ultimate goal for the Respect Rally, she said, is to get people to really think about the language they use and how it can affect other people. “Whether it’s misusing the word gay or other slang, derogatory terms, I feel this event will help encourage people to think about what they’re going to say before saying it.”
Kim Woeste, director of Community and Spiritual life on the RMC campus, thinks highly of Schaff. “I have a great deal of admiration for Emily’s dedication to this cause. It wouldn’t happen without her,” she said. Woeste stressed the importance of the Respect Rally for the RMC community. “[This event] says we care about treating all people with respect. We are all significant. Even people who are different from ourselves are worthwhile and deserve to be valued. I think the Rally also helps people remember that the words we use are important. How we say things is important. How we treat people is important.”
Students who take the Pledge will receive a #respect406 shirt and are welcome to tie-dye it if they choose. Students who receive a t-shirt are encouraged to wear their shirt on #ThrowbackThursday, March 3, to keep the idea of respect continuing. SOMT athletes and employees will be at the event so that people can have a chance to talk to them about their experiences and to get to know some of Montana’s Special Olympics competitors. Everyone is encouraged to come and attend the Respect Rally if they can. Make a difference by taking the pledge to stop using the “R”-word derogatorily and start thinking about respect.
If anyone would like to volunteer at the Respect Rally on March 2, or the Special Olympics Area Games on April 29 and 30, contact Emily Schaff at firstname.lastname@example.org.