By Grace Usher
This school year will be met with a challenge. Rachel’s Challenge is a nation-wide program that was inspired to counteract the negativity brought about by the infamous Columbine High School Shooting in 1999.
The first victim of the shooting, Rachel Scott, left the world with a legacy of kindness. This year, Lake Havasu students will be exposed to her chain reaction theory of kindness.
Rachel’s Challenge is built on the concept that when one act of kindness is performed, an individual will start a chain reaction of kindness that will go on infinitely. Found in diaries written by Rachel, she explains, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, it will start a chain reaction.”
After Rachel’s death, stories began to surface of other students who were shown compassion by her. There were stories of her sitting with new students who had no friends, standing between bullies and victims, and even saying hello to those individuals she could tell were having a bad day. With Rachel’s challenge, her core values of kindness, compassion, and love are being shared with students who are her same age she was then, to help start the chain reaction.
Last week, teachers gathered at the LHHS PAC for the Back to School Teacher Rally. there was the first announcement that Rachel’s Challenge will be coming to schools later that year.
“We thought it was important that the teachers were trained before they do anything with the students, making sure they understand the importance of what Rachel’s mission was and being kind to ourselves. Therefore, [teachers] can be kind and compassionate to others and being able to make a change in your community one step at a time” said Jamie Festa-Daigle.
Cody Hodges, of Dallas, Texas, is a lead presenter for Rachel’s Challenge and has been with the organization since 2007. He he travels to 100 schools each school year to spread the message of Rachel’s Challenge. He was the keynote presenter for the Back to School Rally.
“There are different presentations for Elementary, Middle, and High School. We will start with student wide assemblies and in the afternoon is a follow-up training. The sophomore class will also go through multiple days of presentations and an intensive Chain Reaction program”
The high school and middle school presentations are to give students background information on who Rachel Scott was and what Rachel’s Challenge is in clear, relatable terms. The elementary-level presentation highlights kindness and compassion and does not go into detail of the Columbine incident. The goal of the program is to show Rachel’s kindness as a counter reaction of dark times.
After the presentation at the Rally, teachers seemed to have a positive response.
“I am going to incorporate a lot of ideas they had into my curriculum. I just love that she was so young and she knew she was going to make an impact.” said Meggan Bridges, Calvary Christian Academy.
“[The biggest thing I took away] was the positivity of it all. Being a good, kind, caring person from it all” said Nicholas Griswald, Thunderbolt Middle School.
For one instructor at Thunderbolt Middle School, this is not the first exposure to Rachel’s Challenge and he knows first-hand the importance of the program’s message. Mickey Moschetti was a teacher in Loveland, Colo., just 40 miles from the Columbine incident in 1999. He was teaching his first year when the shooting occurred.
“We had a closed circuit television system, someone broke into circuit to show the live TV coverage of the shooting. Next thing I know I’m watching this happen, and I didn’t know what to tell my class of 35-40 students. Kids in class had relatives, cousins, and friends in Columbine. We didn’t really have lockdowns at the time, Columbine really changed the atmosphere of lockdowns, lockouts. This was at a time before the policies existed.”
This is Moschetti’s third time going through Rachel’s Challenge.
“[The program] is just as powerful now as it was eight or nine years ago. It really shaped how I teach and how I handle things in my day-to-day life. For me it’s all about trying to be as positive as possible and taking the message that I don’t know what is going on in people’s everyday lives. I love it; I think it is amazing.”
What is the opinion of the program from someone who was at Columbine when it happened? Can they too believe that kindness has power after such tragedy?
Local resident, Jodie Case, was 12 years old when she found herself at the wrong place and wrong time during the event.
Case and her sixth-grade class were taking a field trip to the public library that sits on the same property but detached and behind Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. The student’s school, Leewood Elementary was across the street from the library, so the students walked to their destination.
“We left early and walked on the side of the building just before the shots were fired.”
They continued through the library with their field trip, unaware of the horrors that lie just next door. Their first awareness of the event were students coming in crying, screaming, and some covered in the blood of their classmates.
The group was forced to stay hidden in a small room for hours into the night.
“The worst part was that my parents had no idea where I was because technology wasn’t like it is today. The permission slip said Columbine Library so she didn’t know where I was. We weren’t in the library where the shootings were, we were in a different one”
At the end of the evening, a kind officer came into the room and brought the terrified students pizza since they had not eaten for hours. It was then that the students were able to contact their parents and let them know they were safe.
Jodie Case has not let this tragedy keep her from being kind. In fact, she says she finds it more important than ever. She has followed Rachel’s Challenge and is eager for its debut in town this year.
“I’m most excited about it coming to havasu and making a difference in Havasu. Especially because I have four kids, they can know that you can turn something like this into something positive. They lost their daughter and were able to take some sort of light of our their situation and spread the kindness. I think it is going to be really good for our district.”
Rachel’s Challenge will be presented at all schools in LHUSD as well as Telesis Preparatory Academy and Calvary Christian Academy.
The community will also have the opportunity to see the presentation first hand Aug. 27, 5pm, at the Aquatic Center. This also is a great opportunity for home-schooled children to be exposed to the program and translated into their curriculum. For more information on this free community event, click here.