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Rachel’s Challenge; Anti-bullying program comes to northeastern PA

Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine High School rampage, became the inspiration for a program to inspire others with kindness as a way to address bullying and other problems in schools and communities.
Contributed photos

By Linda Drollinger
September 11, 2013

HAWLEY, PA — Darrell Scott is not a stereotype motivational speaker. Dressed in faded jeans and sea-washed polo, his low-key day-long presentation at Woodloch Pines nightclub on Friday, September 6, to an audience of over 250, including educators, students, school administrators, clergy, business and civic leaders, was one of humility and quiet dignity. The father of Rachel Scott, the first of 13 people to be killed by two shooters at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, Scott left a successful career as marketing director for a gourmet frozen food company to become a salaried employee of Rachel’s Challenge, the nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the ideals of inclusivity, compassion and forgiveness that Rachel espoused.

Responding to questions from the media about how and when Rachel’s Challenge got its start, Scott explained that it was an outgrowth of his testimony before Congress, an experience Scott described as an effort by politicians to make the Columbine tragedy a clarion call for gun control legislation. From Scott’s perspective, legislation is an inadequate means of addressing gun violence. Pointing out that the Columbine shooters’ rampage broke dozens of existing laws, he insists that legislation can neither prevent criminal behavior, nor instill moral direction. To do that, he says calmly, hearts must be changed.

Scott went on to say that, although he’d lived with her for all 17 years of her life, he didn’t really know his daughter until after her death. That was when he and Rachel’s stepmother discovered her numerous diaries, journals and school essays. Rachel was an accomplished writer of poetry and prose. And her writings reflected her idealistic belief that all people have the seed of greatness within them. One line from an essay written shortly before her death became the catchphrase of the organization that bears her name: “I have this theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, a chain reaction will begin.”

From her writings, Scott discovered that Rachel had made it a personal mission to reach out to those marginalized at her school, and that she had identified three categories of students requiring support: those with special needs, those new to the school, and those who were picked on or put down. After her death, Scott learned from a special needs student at Rachel’s school that Rachel had come to his defense, facing down the male bullies twice her size who had been beating him.

Rachel’s Challenge: free evening community programs open to the public
Tuesday, September 10, 7 p.m., Wallenpaupack High School
Thursday, September 12, 7 p.m., Honesdale High School
Wednesday, September 25, 7 p.m., Western Wayne High School
Thursday, September 26, 7 p.m., Forest City Regional School
Sponsored by: Wayne Memorial Hospital; Wayne County Offices of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention; and the four school districts listed above.