Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rachel's Challenge brings message of kindness to parents - By Michelle Libby

Rachel Joy Scott was killed at the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. From her writings and her incredible generosity, her father, step-mother and one of her brothers created Rachel’s Challenge, a non-profit organization. For the second time, Darrell Scott, Rachel’s father, returned to Windham to speak to parents and students on Wednesday, November 5. 
“How can I not do this? This is the only way (her dream) could happen,” Darrell said. “I’m old and worn out, so I don’t do it as often. It’s gotten easier over the years. At first it was a little joy and a lot of sorrow, then it was a lot of joy and less sorrow,” he said of speaking about his daughter’s tragic death. 
For two days, trainers from the organization gave presentations to all RSU14 students. The presentations were age appropriate. Columbine was never mentioned to the younger children. Their talk was described as a pep rally about kindness. The middle school and high school students were age-appropriate, discussing what happened at Columbine and how Rachel set out to make her mark on the world. 

“I won’t be labeled as average,” Rachel wrote over and over in her journals and on her journal. After her death, her father found an essay titled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” between the mattress and box spring of her bed. She challenged readers to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. “These are not random acts of kindness. People must go out of their way to show compassion,” said Darrell. 

The visit to Windham was organized by facilities manager Bill Hansen and school resource officer Jeff Smith. The funding was from a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant. Rachel’s Challenge does different programs all centering on kindness, compassion and caring for fellow human beings, said Smith. There is also an anti-bulling component. 

Darrell left parents and students in the audience with three challenges. “First look for the best in others.” Don’t prejudge people. 

Darrell spoke of a family friend who encouraged Rachel and her family to “be a see through-er and not a look at-er.” “See through circumstances, because as Oprah said, ‘people always find what they look for,’” Darrell said. 

In three years, Darrell estimates that coming into communities has stopped at least 500 people from committing suicide. 

“Everyone has a story. Everyone feels alone…sometimes. But there’s always hope. They can’t see their life value at 16 or 17,” said Craig Scott, Rachel’s brother, who was in the school that April day.
Challenge number two is “speak with kindness, not cruelty. Words can hurt…words can heal.” Rachel reached out to Valerie, a troubled girl in the school, six times before Valerie noticed. “Her kindness is tougher than my toughness,” Valerie told the audience in a video. 

“You’re stuff has nothing to do with who you are,” Darrell told the audience. “We’re not human havings, we’re human beings.”

Challenge number three is “dream big.” Do things that have a big impact. 

The assignment for the whole community is to tell people in your life you care about them, Darrell said. Think about how much you love them. Practice forgiveness and ask for it. 

The schools were left with materials on how to keep the chain going with Friends of Rachel clubs and training materials for teachers.  

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