Accepting the Challenge

rachel scott, columbine shooting, high school violence, rachel's legacy, compassion

Hannah is a sixteen year old from New Jersey. She loves to compete with color guard and marching band, and play piano. She hopes to become a writer one day, and to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Two years ago, I arrived at school thinking that I would experience an ordinary day of arithmetic and language. However, I soon learned that it would be far from a normal day. On that cold fall day of my freshman year, my school had worked to receive a speaker for an assembly called “Rachel’s Challenge.” Based off of a dream held by the first victim of the tragic Columbine shootings, Rachel Scott, Rachel’s Challenge taught a lesson of kindness and compassion. Rachel Scott had a theory that she could start a chain reaction of kindness. On that fall day, my school became the next link in the chain.

Presenting an emotionally charged assembly, Rachel’s uncle spoke to the students of my school about the differences that hatred and compassion can make. The room was silent, as other students and I shed tears for the loss of Rachel, our loved ones, and regrets we held in our life. However, the assembly left us with a positive message: we could all start a chain reaction of kindness.

The effects of Rachel’s challenge on my school were immediate. The halls were quieter that day, as students reflected on others who they had hurt or insulted. As I travelled through the halls, I heard a student walk up to another and apologize for bullying him for months. A Friends of Rachel club formed as well, to greet new students, acknowledge teachers, and recognize good deeds. A mural is now painted in the hallway to serve as a reminder that we accepted the challenge.

That was two years ago.

Last month, Rachel’s Challenge returned, to teach the underclassmen and even middle school students the lesson I once learned, and to present to the upperclassmen “Rachel’s Legacy.” I was reminded of the challenge I accepted on that first emotional day, and reaffirmed my commitment by signing my acceptance of the challenge.

The return of Rachel’s Challenge to my school is accompanied by the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act – the strictest state anti-bullying law in the country. As my schools and others in the state work to prevent bullying in school and online through seminars and workshops, Rachel’s Challenge became an emotional base for the community. Parents filed into a community assembly, and left with a new goal to spread kindness to their peers as well.

Even two years after I first accepted Rachel’s Challenge, I am still personally affected by her message. No, I am not always a kind, perfect person. But I try to better myself and limit negative comments towards others. Furthermore, when I do insult someone else, I try to offer a sincere apology. Rachel’s Challenge inspired to include and accept even those different from me, and I would recommend to anyone who got the chance to hear Rachel’s message to listen. Little by little, a chain reaction of kindness can become a world of kindness.

 

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