Rachel’s Challenge, a series of programs based on the writings and life of 17 year-old Rachel Scott who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in the 1999 tragedy, was presented to students of the Milford Central Academy, Milford Senior High School and the community at large on Monday, October 1. In addition to sharing Rachel’s journey through life and the tragic day of the Columbine shooting that took the lives of 12 individuals, the group shared five challenges for students to make Milford School District and the community a safer and more pleasant place to live.
Rachel’s Challenge was started by Rachel’s dad and stepmom, Darrell and Sandy Scott, when they realized that the writings and drawings Rachel left behind had a very real impact on her classmates and friends. Reading through her essays and journals the family quickly realized that her writings could have a greater impact on students around the world. To date, this program has reached over 18 million people and research done by the group suggests that after participating in Rachel’s Challenge programs, students are more likely to intervene in a bullying incident in their school.
“I really see this program as giving the students permission to be nice to each other,” commented Rachel’s Challenge motivational speaker J.B. “It has become cool to be mean to each other and hopefully this program will help students realize that they can start their own chain reaction of kindness and create an atmosphere of compassion.”
Through Rachel Scott’s writings students were challenged to eliminate prejudice from their hearts, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and start their own chain reaction of kindness. Rachel lived these challenged by reaching out to individuals in her school that were new, bullied and disabled. She believed that by being nice to all people she came in contact with, a chain reaction would occur spreading kindness and compassion further than could be imagined.
School Resource Officer Joey Melvin had the idea of presenting Rachel’s Challenge to students after being inspired by the program over a year ago. The message from the program stuck with Officer Melvin over the course of two school years and he felt that it must be shared with students districtwide.
“To be honest it is frustrating continually telling students what not to do,” commented Officer Melvin. “Rachel’s Challenge encourages students and tells them positives things they can do to create a better environment for themselves and their peers.”
According to the Rachel’s Challenge program their results have impacted classrooms around the world. They point to an elementary school in Texas that had 90% fewer disciplinary referrals in the months after a Rachel’s Challenge program was initiated and a high school in Illinois that experienced 84% fewer out-of-school suspensions to show just how inspiring Rachel’s message can be.
In her own words, Rachel Scott summed up her philosophy on life and the purpose of the Rachel’s Challenge program. “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”