Rachel Joy Scott’s life was cut short during the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado on April 20, 1999.
But her short life still has meaning all these years later. Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 accepted “Rachel’s Challenge” to start a chain reaction of kindness, which took place last week. All District 124 students in kindergarten through eighth grade were encouraged – and ultimately challenged – in developmentally appropriate ways to choose kindness over prejudice, bigotry and apathy.
District 124 students and parents listened as Rachel’s uncle, Larry Scott, shared the inspiring true story of her dream being fulfilled over a decade after her death. The acts of kindness Rachel displayed in her short 17 years of life provide a powerful reminder of the little things everyone can do each day to make the world a better place, he said. Rachel wrote in one of the many essays that her uncle shared, “You never know how far a little kindness can go.”
“Rachel was the first student to die in the Columbine shootings,” said Scott. “Her death devastated our family. She was the middle child of five; she had two sisters and two brothers.”
Scott said that Rachel kept journals to chronicle her thoughts and good deeds. Those journals unveiled that Rachel had wisdom beyond a typical 17-year-old girl. “She knew she was going to die before her time and she knew her life was going to impact millions of people,” said Scott.
According to Scott, Rachel’s Challenge has been facilitated in over 20,000 schools nationally and internationally combined. It’s a message of hope, inspiration and a call to action to change the world for the better.
“I believe true healing happens when we use our lives to help others to the extent we’ve been hurt,” said Scott. “Today our family is doing well and that’s largely because of our faith and the work we’ve done through Rachel’s Challenge.”
Last week marked the third year for Rachel’s Challenge in District 124. Supt. Dr. Robert Machak said that the program continues to positively impact the school community.
“Our disciplinary numbers go down every year; the Challenge is a big part of it,” said Machak. ”It’s really about accountability to ourselves and to one another -- the idea of setting goals and writing them down, signing your name to the banner, these all speak to the real commitment we are making to try to get better every day.”
The banner is a large poster passed around each school that every student and staff member is invited -- not required -- to sign. By signing it, participants agree to honor the five tenets of Rachel’s Challenge, which include using kind words and doing kind things for others.
In referencing the banner in his meeting with District 124 parents last week, Scott said, “Tell (your children) not to sign it if they don’t mean it.”