Father of Columbine victim issues challenge to local students

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Father continues daughter’s mission to inspire students to help prevent others from becoming victims

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

A father who lost his daughter to school violence used his loss to inspire local students to help prevent others from being victims with his daughter’s method of kindness.

Attendees of a special Bossier Schools event last week heard the story of one girl’s dream to change the world, and how, nearly two decades after she was lost in the Columbine High School shooting, it is being fulfilled by her father.

Darrell Scott, a Shreveport native who attended Woodlawn High School, spoke at the Bossier Instructional Center at a free community event on Thursday, Nov. 8, about the program he founded in his daughter’s memory.

The story begins on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where an ordinary day became the horrific scene of the deadliest school shooting at the time in U.S. history. A dozen students and one teacher died at the hands of two teenagers.

Rachel Joy Scott was the first victim.

Her brother, Craig, was also at Columbine at the time of the shooting, but he survived.

“I almost lost two children that day,” Scott said.

About a month before Rachel died, she wrote a school essay about her ethics and codes of life.

“Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer. 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. People will never know how far a little kindness can go,” Rachel wrote.

After Rachel’s death, students and countless others reached out to the Scotts about the profound impact her simple acts of kindness had on their lives.

“At her funeral, our family sat and watched a long line of young people get up and share story after story after story about Rachel’s kindness and her compassion,” Scott said.

Scott said Rachel reached out to three groups at her school on a regular basis.

“She said she wanted to reach out to those with special needs because they are often overlooked, or reach out to new students at our school because they don’t have friends yet and reached out to those who are being picked on or being put down,” he said.

Hearing how Rachel impacted the lives of others, the Scott family founded Rachel’s Challenge, a program presented in schools all over the country, as a way to spread the message of simple acts of kindness.

“Our mission is not to respond to crisis, but to prevent the crisis from ever happening. To do that, it’s important to reach the hearts of young people. Our focus is always on the solution, never the problem,” Scott said.

Rachel’s vision to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion is the basis for the organization’s mission: Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.

“Our focus is not on bullying at all. It’s about kindness, it’s about compassion. How can we become friends with each other,” Scott said.

Rachel’s Challenge has reached over 28 million people, not counting the millions Darrell Scott has spoken to through programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, CNN and the Today Show.

Rachel’s Challenge asks students to:

  • Look for the best in others.
  • Dream big.
  • Choose positive influences.
  • Speak with kindness.
  • Start your own chain reaction.

Scott shared a message from Rachel to those struggling: “I have my ups and downs and I fell a few times, but I did not give up. Don’t give up.”

For more information, visit www.rachelschallenge.org.