On April 20, 1999, Rachel Scott was enjoying the warm spring sunshine while sitting on the grass outside Columbine High School having lunch with a friend. Two schoolmates approached her carrying large duffel bags. Seconds later, Scott lay dead and her friend was seriously injured, the result of gunshot wounds. The two gunmen entered the school and killed another dozen before committing suicide.
Following her funeral, Rachel’s parents decided they wanted her to be remembered for how she lived, not how she died. Those who knew Rachel professed she was really special, someone who always had a kind word.
By the time she turned 17, Rachel had filled six journals with her perspectives on life and ideas on how to make the world a better place. Writings and ideas, everyone agreed, that far surpassed her young age — ideas such as a “chain reaction” of kindness and compassion.
On Friday, Jan. 18, about 600 students and staff from Stuart Middle School packed the school’s gymnasium to learn about her ideas, part of “Rachel’s Challenge,” a series of programs established to celebrate Rachel’s memory that has reached about 20 million people in the past 13 years via live events.
The Scott family understood firsthand the seriousness of bullying. Following her death — at the hands of two students who had been bullied — the Scott family pledged to educate others on bullying’s harmful effects.
Dave Gamache, a certified presenter with Rachel’s Challenge and family friend, was on hand to talk about Rachel’s story for a group of students, many of whom weren’t even born when the Columbine tragedy occurred.
Gamache was accompanied by other members of the Rachel’s Challenge team and a television news crew from South Korea. The news team was spending time shadowing members of Rachel’s Challenge, hopeful to take their message back to their own country.
Gamache relayed stories of Rachel growing up, her passion for unique hats and her desire to help others. From Rachel’s father, Darrell Scott, and her stepmother Sandy, and especially her younger brother Craig, who was in the school library the day of the shootings, students and staff learned more about Rachel’s hopes and dreams.
Through a video, Craig Scott recounted memories of his sister: How they arrived at school that morning and how his friends were killed as they hid under a library table together. A hush came over the audience. Teachers slowly migrated to the bleachers, head in hand, as many students openly wept.
Craig Scoot told of the argument he had with Rachel on the way to school that morning and the regrets he says he will live with the rest of his life after storming out of the car and not telling her, “I love you.”
Overall, the Rachel’s Challenge presentation delivered a singular message: Students need to understand the effects of bullying and pledge to put an end to it.
Following the assembly, students were asked to sign a large banner pledging to do their part to stop bullying. The banner is to be hung on a wall in clear view of everyone who enters Stuart Middle School.
To learn more about the program, visit the Rachel’s Challenge website, www.rachelschallenge.com.