Students attend Rachel's Challenge presentation

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Gabe Dreyer” align=”alignleft” width=”300″]Rachel's Challenge signing[/media-credit]

During lunch yesterday, students signed a banner pledging to participate in Rachel’s Challenge.

by Ryan Condon and Steven Michael

Rachel’s Challenge, a program that is part of this school’s anti-bullying initiative, was presented to all students yesterday in the gym.

Sponsored by the Newton Partnership, the presentation described what happened on April 20, 1999, when two students armed with guns and pipe bombs attempted to bomb the Columbine cafeteria and then began shooting students and faculty.

Rachel Scott was the first of 13 victims killed in the massacre, after which the shooters took their own lives.  It was the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history.

The presentation aimed to highlight not only how she died, but how she lived her life with compassion, said presenter Shane Micheel.

Six weeks before her death, Scott wrote “My Ethics and Code of Life,” an essay in which she challenged the reader to start a chain reaction of kindness. This essay inspired Rachel’s Challenge, a list of five pledges that students are encouraged to support in order to enact positive change in the school and community.

These five challenges are:

•Look for the best in others. Eliminate prejudice.
•Dream big. Write goals. Keep a journal.
•Choose positive influences.
•Speak with kindness. Words can hurt or heal.
•Start your own chain reaction of kindness

Micheel said that to start one’s own chain reaction of kindness, students should think of the people they love most, go up to them and tell them how much they matter. “They will remember that moment forever,” he said.

The presentation demonstrated the way Scott lived by these values. She reached out to special-needs students, new students and students being picked on, all of whom needed a friend, Micheel said.

Scott’s younger brother Craig was hiding under a table in the library when the gunmen shot his two friends. One of his friends, Isaiah, was one of the few African-American students at Columbine, and the gunmen shouted racial slurs at him before they fatally shot him.

“I laid in the blood of my two friends looking down the barrel of a gun, thinking I was the next to go,” he said.

The presentation compared Scott to Anne Frank, who also was killed at a young age and also kept a diary. Scott’s and Frank’s writings bear astonishing similarities. Scott wrote, “My codes may seem like a fantasy,” and Frank wrote, “It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideas, they seem so absurd and impractical.”

A banner, located outside the cafeteria, was available for students to sign in acceptance of Rachel’s Challenge.  Once signed, the banners will hang on Main Street. At the end of the day, a student leadership training session was held for students interested in participating in Friends of Rachel, or FOR club.  “Rachel intended to change the world with her chain reaction of kindness, and that’s exactly what she did,” said Micheel.