Responding to 'Rachel's Challenge'
Published 5:52 pm, Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The legacy of Rachel Joy Scott has been felt in the hallways of New Milford schools.
She was one of 13 to be killed April 20, 1999, by a pair of fellow students in Columbine, Colo. The memory of how Rachel lived her life has since inspired a program called Rachel's Challenge.
Standing last week before a group of some 80 peers and teachers, Alejandro accepted Rachel's Challenge -- five commitments inspired by Miss Scott's legacy of kindness and compassion to others. He said her story has changed how he wants to be perceived.
All of the school's seventh- and eighth-graders attended an assembly about the Columbine massacre and Rachel's belief in how to treat people. A smaller, two-grade group then joined a 90-minute training session on how to keep the challenge alive.
Listening to Miss Scott's own words, and thinking about his life script, Alejandro pledged he no longer wants to engage in "bad behavior."
"I'm going to try not to do that stuff anymore," he said.
Program presenter Cody Hodges, 28, of Texas, commended Alejandro for "having the guts" to speak up. He shared the same with parents who attended an evening session (see photographs).
Rachel's Challenge encourages follow-up and community interaction, Mr. Hodges said.
From a professional perspective, Ms. Zaccagnini said the way to have an impact is on-going group activities to reinforce the message.
Many of the millions who have heard Rachel's Challenge "will never be the same," Mr. Hodges said.
In New Milford, Mr. Hodges said he believes Alejandro will be one who becomes part of Rachel's "chain reaction of kindness."
Rachel's Challenge is not a "witch hunt for bullies," Mr. Hodges said. Rather, he explained, it challenges youth, parents and faculty to embrace Rachel's ideals and thwart acts that might be deemed as bullying: name-calling, scapegoating, cyberspace stalking, even physical attacks.
"If kids can be kinder, they can make a difference in the world, and then Rachel Scott would not have died in vain," said New Milford PTO parent Mikki Harkin.