‘Rachel’s Challenge’ brings message of love to area residents


AVON LAKE – Rachel Scott told her family and friends she was going to die young and that she would make a difference in the world.

Rachel wasn’t suicidal or terminally ill, her father said, but she was right. The 17-year-old was the first of 12 students and one teacher killed in the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in April 1999. From that tragedy, in which 27 others were wounded, came a program that is her legacy.

Rachel’s Challenge is a movement her father, Darrell Scott, started to create a “chain reaction of taking care of each other” by confronting bullying and teaching students about being good citizens, said Dr. Vishtasp Nuggud, principal of Learwood Middle School in Avon Lake. Nuggud, whose doctorate dissertation was on school bullying, is bringing Rachel’s Challenge to Learwood for the first time.

The program kicked off last Tuesday with afternoon presentations and activities at Learwood for seventh and eighth graders, followed by an evening presentation for the public at Avon Lake High School. In the afternoon, presenter Chris Mowery shared Rachel’s story with students who hadn’t yet been born when the shooting happened on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colo. Some brought their parents to the evening program because Rachel’s story had affected them so much, he said afterward.

Students and teachers discussed that afternoon how to implement Rachel’s Challenge at Learwood, Nuggud said. Those discussions will continue and lead to a plan soon, the principal said.

The evening presentation included video clips showing news coverage of the shootings, excerpts from Rachel’s journals, which feature her writing and artwork, and recollections from survivors. Among them is Rachel’s brother Craig, a freshman at Columbine in 1999. Besides losing his sister, Craig watched fellow students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill two of his friends. Harris and Klebold plotted the attack, reportedly because they had been bullied. After carrying it out, they killed themselves inside the school.

Mowery presented his evening audience with five challenges, based on how Rachel lived:

Look for the best in others. “Eliminate prejudices,” he said.

Dream big and record your journey. “Find out what you’re passionate about, what your purpose is. And discover how to use that to make the world a better place.”

Choose positive influences.Find role models. And if you can’t find them, be one.”

Speak with kindness. “Use your words and the power of your words to bring healing to people’s lives.”

Start your own chain reaction. “Imagine you’ve just lost someone close to you and you’re thinking about all the things you wish you’d said. Say them.”

More information about Rachel’s Challenge is available at https://rachelschallenge.org/ and by using the hashtags #rachelschallenge and #chainreaction on social media.

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