By JEROD CLAPP
Two people who only met her briefly had a change of attitude after talking to her. After she was gone, even13 years later, they still remembered her kindness and shared her story.
Students at Charlestown Middle School heard the story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, in a program called Rachel’s Challenge.
The program teaches students and community members to reach out to one another and set aside prejudices. Rachel reached out to a bully at her school and changed his attitude by simply listening.
Karen Wesely, principal, said while she doesn’t think bullying is a big problem at her school, it’s something that affects kids everywhere.
“I would be lying if I said we didn’t have bullying in our school,” Wesely said. “As you walk through the halls, I don’t think an outsider would encounter a tense environment, but kids are kids. We hope this can reach them on a personal level and make them go out of their way to do something good.”
The presentation for seventh- and eighth-graders showed what happened at Columbine, but also talked about how Rachel’s acts of kindness multiplied through the people she helped.
The bully she reached out to, Mark Farrington, left a letter on her grave to thank her for changing his attitude. In the presentation’s video, he said she made a positive change in his life.
Aaron Kinebrew, a presenter with Rachel’s Challenge, said Rachel’s ideas on kindness apply to students today as much as they did in 1999.
“It could spread like wildfire, it could be like dominoes, it’s a chain reaction,” Kinebrew said. “We tell her story because of this. That’s why she says if one person can go out of their way to show kindness and compassion, it will start a chain reaction of the same.”
Aaron Meyer, an eighth-grader who watched the program, said he thinks he learned something from Rachel’s example and hopes to apply it to his own life.
“I’m always mean to people and I always regret it,” Meyer said. “It’s probably my attitude and it’s something I can change very easily. I think it would be better because things would be easier.”
Emily Losey, guidance counselor, said hearing from Rachel’s brother, Craig, was something else she thought would hit home with kids.
“I think seeing the brother filled with regret that the last encounter with his sister was an argument and something he wishes he could take back is something they can all relate to,” Losey said. “I am hoping they can see that as a real moment and as an opportunity to be better to others.”
Sarah Booth, another student who watched the program, said she also thinks she can learn from Rachel’s example.
“I really admire how she lived her life,” Booth said. “I want to try to do all the things she did with the kind words and never saying anything mean to anyone.”