The Columbine High School massacre is remembered by most as the most tragic high school shooting is our nation’s history. On April 20, 1999, two student gunmen entered their high school, armed with weapons, and planted two pipe bombs in the cafeteria. The student gunmen, Eric and Dylan, planned on shooting students as they exited the building after the bombs went off. The bombs never went off, but Eric and Dylan entered the school and began shooting the students anyways. By the end of the killing spree, most of which took place in the library, 12 students and one teacher had been killed, and several others had been left injured. The gunmen ultimately took their own lives that day, leaving the death total at 15. Rachel Joy Scott, a 17 year old junior, was the first person at Columbine High School to be shot and killed.
Rachel was a kind teenage girl who spread her compassion and understanding all over the school. A month before her death, Rachel wrote an essay titled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life”. Her objectives in writing this essay were to challenge her reader to “start a chain reaction” of kindness and compassion, and to ultimately show that it only takes one person to make a difference in the world. She believed that if “one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.” She explained that we shouldn’t be judgmental and that just a little kindness can go a long way.
After her death, her family and close family friends decided to start a non-religious, non-political and non-profit organization called Rachel’s Challenge. For over ten years, Rachel’s Challenge has been spreading her message to schools across the United States. Hopkins Academy was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take part in one of these presentations last Wednesday. During the assembly, students watched video clips of the shooting and documentaries that had been about Rachel. They also had the chance to listen to the speaker, a friend of the Scott family, talk about Rachel, her family, and her message. During Rachel’s Challenge, students were presented with five challenges to help continue to spread Rachel’s message to family, friends, and schoolmates. These five challenges were:
- Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Look for the best in others and eliminate prejudice.
- Dream big and believe in yourself. Set goals and write them down in a journal.
- Appreciate everyone, mock no one, and choose positive influences.
- Practice positive gossip. Use kind words and actions, which can lead to huge results.
- Find forgiveness in yourself and others. Start a chain reaction with family and friends.
If we can try to embrace these challenges everyday, and try to spread kindness like Rachel, we might just start a chain reaction, too. The peer mentor group here at Hopkins will be trying to carry out these challenges and encourage others to do the same. If you have any ideas on how to continue the chain reaction (such as posters around the school, or a chain of acts of kindness like the ones shown in the video) leave your suggestions in the comments!