Rachel’s Challenge focuses on creating positive cultural change

by Kara Hildreth
Thisweek Newspapers

Comparing the life of his niece, Rachel Scott, to the famous young author Anne Frank, Larry Scott brought Rachel’s Challenge to Farmington and Eagan schools this week.

Rachel Scott was the first student shot and killed in the country’s worst school shooting at Columbine High School in 1998.

Larry Scott spoke to the entire student body at Farmington Middle School West and Farmington High School on Oct. 28. He also spoke at Eagan High School on Oct. 27.

Scott compared how both young women — Anne Frank and Rachel Scott who died at young ages — have influenced many to make positive personal goals and cultural changes in society.

In the emotional testimony, Scott said today Rachel’s Challenge is
becoming a social revolution in schools across the country with the
goal of creating a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.

Rachel’s Challenge lays out ways youth can create positive cultural
change in their lives. Youth can work to eliminate prejudicial
thoughts, dream of the future by actively setting goals and writing
down thoughts in a journal, seeking positive influences with friends
and always be careful to use kind words.

Before her death Rachel wrote a school essay called “My Code of Ethics:
My Code of Life” in which she challenged the reader to create a chain
reaction of kindness and compassion.

Comparing his niece’s short life to the life of Anne Frank, who died at
a young age in a Nazi concentration camp and who also kept a famous
journal, Scott said the two young student killers chose that particular
day — April 20 – to shoot up the school because it was Adolf Hitler’s
birthday.

At that time in history, the televised funeral of Rachel Scott was
reported to be the largest viewing audience on record in CNN history,
Scott said.

“Let me tell you students, it is not worth it to shoot people because
you have been bullied or you don’t like somebody,” Scott said.

Scott urged students to give people three chances before rejecting them or labeling them in their minds.

“Look for the best in others and look for the best in each other
whether it is principals, teachers or administrators,” Scott said.

“It takes nothing to find the worst in people,” Scott said.

During the one-hour program, Scott urged youth to reach out to new
students at school and make friends with students who are teased at
school.

He also urged all students to refrain from speaking “smack” or goofing
off while using unkind words, even if the intention is what seems like
carefree fun just to make a joke.

At the end of the presentation, Scott urged each student to talk with
family members and let them know how much they are cared to start the
chain reaction.

“My verbal challenge to you is in the next three days tell someone how
much love them and how much it means that you care about them,” Scott
said.

“As we look at moving into the new high school next fall, we felt that
this was a great opportunity to spark some reflection, conversation and
action about the environment we want for teaching, learning, school
life, and student involvement,” said Ben Kusch, the new principal at
Farmington High School.

“The feedback and the themes that came out from students and staff
showed how very, very powerful it was and how it was a reminder of what
the act of kindness can actually do,” said MaLie Lee, principal at
Farmington Middle School West.

“Our conversations were very rich and some said they would welcome new students to the building and to our community,” Lee said.

Lee said students learned how important it is to choose their words
carefully. Many students chose to sign their names on a hallway school
banner to begin the chain reaction of kindness and compassion.

Kara Hildreth is at farmington.thisweek@ecm-inc.com.

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