JACOBS: Tonopah youth pastor takes on bullying

Susan Moniz is the youth pastor at New Hope Assembly of God in Tonopah.

She is, however, trying to get the word out to adults, specifically parents, about an anti-bullying effort known as “Rachel’s Challenge” coming to Tonopah on April 5.

Though the program is planned for Tonopah Middle School and Tonopah High School students that day, the effort includes an evening program that seeks to attract parents.

“That is crucial,” Moniz said. “I know the kids will respond at the school assemblies. But we need the buy-in from the whole town, from all the parents, for everybody to be on board with this.”

The evening community event is planned for 6:30 p.m., April 5 in the Tonopah High School Theater.

Moniz calls Rachel’s Challenge “a great program.”

“It covers the whole gamut: bullying, student isolation, suicide prevention,” she said. “They have on record that at least 150 students (nationally) every year stop their suicide attempt because they heard a Rachel’s Challenge.”

Rachel’s Challenge is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine school shootings in 1999 in Colorado, the anti-bullying program reports.

“Rachel’s Challenge exists to equip and inspire individuals to replace acts of violence, bullying and negativity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion,” program organizers say in describing their efforts.

Several groups came together to help bring Rachel’s Challenge to Tonopah, including the Rotary Club, NV Energy, Community Chest of the Virginia City area, the PTA, New Hope Assembly and Tonopah High School’s student council, Moniz said.

The evening event aims to reinforce to parents what the students will hear earlier in the day. That way “they’re on the same page as their kids so that we as a community can combat bullying and student isolation and teen suicide because it affects the whole community,” Moniz said. “We want the whole community to have a buy-in.”

An advertisement for the evening event says it is aimed for those 11 and older because it’s “graphic.” “Actually, the nighttime event, they don’t even recommend that you bring small children,” Moniz said. “It’s really for seventh grade and up. But since our middle school includes the sixth grade, we’re going to say sixth grade is more than welcome to attend, parental discretion.”

As Rachel’s Challenge comes to Tonopah, Moniz is trying to get the word out about its importance.

“I don’t even have kids in this school,” she said. “I am just a children’s pastor. But I see the need for the whole community to get on board and get behind the kids, help them change the atmosphere in their school, support the kids who are being bullied.”

Saying bullying is not just a student issue, Moniz aims to get “the whole community involved and all on the same page as far as what is appropriate behavior in our children, one toward the other.”

“If a student who is being bullied has just one person stick up for him, the effect of that bullying just drops exponentially,” Moniz said.

She said parents who can’t attend the evening event can reach her at 775-482-6613 to try and arrange another time to attend during the Tonopah visit by Rachel’s Challenge.

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@tonopahtimes.com

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