Rachel’s challenge issued across county

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Jim Kennedy, presenter for Rachel’s Challenge, speaks to Elk Lake High School students Tuesday (Sept. 17). STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

 

BY PAT FARNELLI

 

Look for the best in others. Dream big. Choose positive influences. Speak with kindness. Start your own chain reaction.

These are the five challenges left by Rachel Joy Scott, the first homicide victim of the worst school shooting in United States History.

Presenter Jim Kennedy, a friend of the Scott family, shared Rachel’s writings and actions with Elk Lake junior and senior high students Tuesday mrning.

In the afternoon, Kennedy was to conduct a training session for students who want to make a positive impact on their school and community.

Students sighed, wiped away tears, and raised their hands in response to Kennedy’s promptings about prejudice and cruelty.

Rachel Scott chose to eat her lunch outside on Apr. 20, 1999, the first warm spring day in Columbine, Colo.

It was also Adolph Hitler’s birthday, and was therefore the day that two young men, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, chose to invade Columbine High School to kill students there.

By the time the two shooters took their own lives in the school library, 13 were dead and many more wounded. Rachel’s brother was in the library during the shooting. He heard the first shots fired outside, unaware that those bullets had killed his own sister.

The librarian called 911 and told the students to get under the tables and desks.

From under the desk, Craig Scott and his friend Matt saw his friend Isaiah, one of the few black kids in school, taunted by the killers with racial slurs. “He was made fun of, for the last minutes of his life, for the color of his skin,” Craig Scott said in a televised interview that was part of the presentation.

After Rachel’s death, her backpack was returned to her father, which contained the last of her six journals. The journal had a deep chunk missing from it on one side, which turned out to be a bullet hole.

It serves as an exclamation point of sorts to a sentence on the cover: “I won’t be labeled as average.”

After the funeral, he received many phone calls from Columbine survivors who spoke of Rachel’s acts of kindness toward them.

She had chosen Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. as her role models. She may have borrowed from a quote of King’s: The chain reaction of evil must be broken.”

In her journal, she writes about starting a chain reaction of kindness.

There was a slide showing an inscription Rachel had made on the back of her dresser. It showed tracings of her hands, and said, “These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of hearts.”

Like Anne Frank, Rachel believed that she would die young and yet would touch the lives of others far  into the future.

She reached out to three groups of people: special needs students, new students, and those who were being taunted or bullied.

After the high school program, two Elk Lake senior girls who had been enemies for some time rushed to tearfully embrace each other. They spoke to Kennedy and received permission to go to the training session that afternoon.

Kennedy concluded his talk by asking students to speak to five people who have meant the most to them.

“I want to thank you on behalf of Rachel’s family. Your hands are extensions of her hands,” Kennedy said.

The Rachel’s Challenge program will be presented for students at Mountain View Thursday and Montrose Area Friday.

The public will have an opportunity to learn about the program at Mountain View High School on Thursday night at 7.

More information is available on the website Rachelschallenge.org.