Darrell Scott’s daughter Rachel was the first person to die in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. He created Rachel’s Challenge, a non-profit organization, in an effort to turn tragedy into something that would inspire “kindness and compassion.” A team of 63 presenters shares Rachel’s drawings and diary entries with audiences all over the world. With 17 variations on the program the message can be tailored to audiences ranging from elementary school students to corporations.
Scott travels frequently, often speaking to thousands of students at school assemblies, to spread his daughter’s message. He recently gave his presentation to a handful of educators, community leaders and the media in a small conference room at the 3TV studios in Phoenix to heighten awareness of Rachel’s Challenge and encourage schools and community groups to bring the program to the Valley.
The Belo Corporation, owner of 20 television stations and associated websites around the country — including 3TV, CW 6 and AZFamily.com — is a Rachel’s Challenge partner in spreading awareness of the program throughout Arizona and the country.
The Rachel’s Challenge program is intended to motivate individuals to start, in Rachel Scott’s words, a “chain reaction” of kindness throughout their community. In a school assignment titled: “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” she wrote about her personal “codes” — trust, compassion and beauty (seeing the good in people). She ends the assignment with, “My codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached, but test them for yourself, and see the kind of effect they have in the lives of people around you. You just may start a chain reaction.”
Rachel’s Challenge provides pre- and post-presentation materials for elementary through high school as well as teacher training materials. Though the Rachel’s Challenge organization does not require schools to implement the trainings or follow-up activities, Scott obviously hopes they will, rather than limiting the impact to a one-time assembly.
Schools are encouraged to create Friends of Rachel service clubs to continue the ideas they learned in the presentation. Scott says some schools use Rachel’s Challenge as a foundation for character education programs and have presenters come speak each school year, or sometimes multiple times in a school year.
Rachel’s Challenge leaves the audience with five specific challenges: look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and start your own chain reaction. By focusing on the development of the student and accepting differences, Darrel Scott believes that it will create a safer, more accepting school environment.
In his presentation at TV3, Scott said, “I always try to look through a situation and not just at it. You have to find the good (in a situation) because you will see whatever you want to see.” Scott hopes that the program continues to grow in the Valley. So far 28,000 Arizona students have seen it. He also feels that schools should spend more resources focused on developing individuals instead of test scores and standardize testing. To find out more, visit rachelschallenge.org.