Rachel’s Challenge gets a chain reaction

Rachel’s Challenge presenter Jim May recalls memories of Rachel Joy Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings. Above May is a powerpoint image of Rachel, on right, with family members. Rachel’s Challenge was presented at Mountain View Wednesday, and at Blue Ridge Thursday. . STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

BY PAT FARNELLI

Rachel Joy Scott had premonitions that she would die young. She also was convinced she would make a major impact on the world.

As the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999, Rachel has fulfilled her destiny.

 Her legacy, Rachel’s Challenge, has become a national movement to eliminate prejudice, to promote goal-setting and acts of kindness, and to start a chain reaction of compassion and positive action.

On Wednesday, Mountain View School District held three entirely different assemblies for junior high and high school students and the public. High school principal Andy Doster said that the school assemblies were extremely well received and had a great impact. “Kids don’t understand the impact of the words they say on other kids,” he said. “This needs to be put in practice a long time, to change the culture.”

  Jim May, a friend of the Scott family for more than 40 years, was the presenter, but he relied on Rachel’s powerful journal entries and news images of Columbine for most of the impact.

Rachel’s writings resonate with the young, and parents and faculty responded as well. Her messages are simple, but she backed them up with actions. After she was slain at Columbine, other students came forward to bear witness to times Rachel had put herself in jeopardy to defend or befriend a fellow student in crisis.

Some of those students claim their lives were saved. One young man, Adam, said that her intervention when he was being slammed into the lockers prevented him from taking his own life.

 A fellow Columbine student, Amber, was befriended by Rachel at lunch. Amber was shy and new at school, and it turned out that she had lost her mother only a month beforehand.

The two young men who opened fire in the most infamous school shooting did not start out as monsters, May said. They were profoundly affected by violent media. “Eric and Dylan watched the same extremely violent movie 200 times,” May said.

They also became obsessed with Adolf Hitler, and chose his birthday for the day of the school attack.

Rachel, on the other hand, had chosen Anne Frank as a role model, and her jounal entries are profoundly influenced by her diary.

“Rachel chose positive influences,” May said.

May showed lighthearted videos of a younger Rachel claiming to be an actress who was going to be famous, and a 16th birthday bungie jump.

Not long before the tragic day, Rachel’s journals took a dark turn, anticipating her death as immanent, and saying it would be a homicide.

One entry said, “This will be my last year, Lord. I have gotten what I can. Thank you.”

May showed a photo of the back of her dresser, which had tracings of her hands, and her inscription that these were the hands of Rachel Joy Scott and would touch millions of lives.

One part of the challenge was to use kind words and little acts of kindness to achieve huge results.

May asked the students and others to pledge to thank those who have touched them with kindnesss. Outside the auditorium was a large plastic hallway banner that students had signed, pledging to take up Rachel’s Challenge.

Doster said it would be hung in the high school entrance to continue to promote the program.

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