rachel scott, rachel scott columbine victim
Rachel Scott

Columbine Victim Rachel Scott Continues to Inspire

April 20, 2010 08:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Rachel Scott was the first person killed during the Columbine shooting on April 20, 1999. Her memory continues to inspire students nationwide to see the best in others.

Scott’s Writings Inspire Family to Start Rachel’s Challenge

The day she died, Rachel Scott carried a notebook in her backpack, on which she’d written the words “I won’t be labeled as average.” And she has not been labeled as average, but not because of the tragic way she died—Rachel Scott will not be remembered as average because of the way she lived, inspiring others to live life to its fullest.

Rather than resent the event that took Scott’s life, her family and a growing group of supporters have chosen to use her story to make the world a more compassionate place.

Scott wrote in a school essay on ethics that when you perform an act of kindness, no matter how big or small, “you just may start a chain reaction.” Her persuasive optimism convinced her family to start Rachel’s Challenge, now reaching schools across the country.

Rachel’s Challenge offers several programs that encourage high school and middle school students to recognize their purpose in life and see the best in others. Participants are also issued five powerful challenges based on Scott’s writings. Her written words have become a source of comfort for many. 

In April 2008, Dave Gamache, a Rachel’s Challenge speaker, shared the message with 2,000 students at Eisenhower High School in Yakima, Washington. “Those little acts of kindness change lives and save lives,” he told the crowd. “It’s definitely an incredibly inspiring experience,” said Erin Brassington, a junior, following the event. “I now have a lot more hope and encouragement that I can make a difference.”

Nearly 6,000 people filled an auditorium when Rachel’s Challenge came to Nampa, Idaho. Darrell Scott, Rachel’s father, talked to the crowd about spreading his daughter’s dreams of starting “a chain reaction” of kindness. “We’ve heard these things like a million times, but I think this really affected us and I think it will leave an impression,” said one high school student following the event.

In the decade since the shootings at Columbine, Rachel's Challenge has been able to make something good come out of such a terrible event. Rachel's Challenge has seen such a positive response in the K-12 education world that the organization has decided to expand to provide programs for colleges and for corporations to spread even more kindness and compassion.

“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,” Rachel had written. “People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

There will be a Rachel’s Challenge Summit in Denver, Colo., in late June this year. Visit the official Web site for information on attending.

Key Player: Rachel Joy Scott

Ever since the incident now known simply as “Columbine,” Rachel Scott’s smiling picture has brought hope to those trying to understand a senseless tragedy.

Scott’s mother describes her as “a girl who was friends with everyone. There wasn't a soul who wasn't important to her. She loved her family, her friends ... and the Lord. She was very active in her church youth group, and her love for the Lord was evident in the way she lived her life.”

Home videos, photographs and excerpts from her journals, shared by her family encourage visitors to Rachel Scott's Web page get to know her better. The site also features the latest news on Rachel Scott-related programs, as well as a guestbook.

In “Rachel’s Tears,” Scott’s parents talk about their daughter’s life and how they have found meaning in her death following the school shooting at Columbine.

Time magazine columnist Roger Rosenblatt wrote that the loss of Scott and the other students at Columbine should be a reminder to journalists to capture people’s lives before they are punctuated by death: “The deeper unknowable, though, is who you were before the guns locked you into a sentence. The only question that ever ought to matter to my colleagues and our customers is the one we do not ask except in retrospect, after the guns or the scandal: Who are we all in silence—at a table in the cafeteria, at a table in the library?”

He dedicated that piece to Scott a few weeks after her death, Rosenblatt wrote, “But this is also for you alone, Rachel, dead at 17, yet ineradicable because of the photograph of your bright and witty face, now sadly familiar to the country, and because of the loving and admiring testimonies of your family.”

Background: The Columbine massacre and its aftermath

The Christian Science Monitor explored Columbine’s effects on survivors five years after the incident. "People who went to Columbine were not crazy," said Elizabeth Kwerneland, who was a Columbine freshman at the time of the tragedy. But, she says, "we're dealing with something that not a lot of people have dealt with."

In 2009, Dave Cullen, a reporter who'd covered the Columbine story from day one, published a book dispelling many of the myths surrounding the Columbine tragedy. Many of the initial reports by media had incorrectly said the killers were in a "trenchcoat mafia" that they were loners, and that they were picked on. Cullen's book, along with other recent profiles of the killers, explores how the teens were not as much of outsiders as the media had initially portrayed them, they were not good kids gone bad, but that they were mentally disturbed and suicidal, and how they had not picked out students to kill, but rather had planned to kill everyone with a bomb that never detinated.

Regardless of its role in the Columbine tragedy, bullying in schools remains a significant concern to parents, faculty and students, particularly as the Internet yeilds more platforms for antagonism.

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