ARCANUM — She was the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting spree on April 20, 1999, one which ultimately took the lives of 13 individuals.
Though more than 16 years have passed since that awful day, the words and life of student Rachel Scott continue to inspire.
Wednesday evening saw an audience of all age groups assemble at Arcanum High School to learn about Scott, and more importantly, how to put the positive message of her life into action today.
Aaron Kinebrew, a speaker for the non-profit organization “Rachel’s Challenge,” presented an hour-long program highlighting the life of Scott through a combination of sound, videos and photos.
“I prefer to call myself an ‘inspirational speaker,’ not a ‘motivational speaker,’” said Kinebrew. “I’m not here to motivate people, I want to inspire them. This is my passion.”
Rachel’s Challenge is a series of student-empowering programs that equip students and adults to create and sustain safe, caring and supportive learning environments essential for academic achievement.
During her short life, Scott left a legacy of reaching out to those who were different, picked on by others, or who were new at her school.
It wasn’t until after Scott’s death that her family fully realized how much of a positive impact she had on others.
In but one instance, she defended a special needs student from bullies. Following the Columbine tragedy, the young man told her family that before this happened, he had planned to commit suicide. Her intervention and kindness changed his mind.
Shortly before her death, Scott wrote, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”
Kinebrew’s presentation included five key concepts derived from Scott’s experience:
- Eliminate prejudice
- Dream big
- Choose positive influences
- Speak with kindness
- Start your own chain reaction
“People tend to respond to what we expect of them,” Kinebrew told the audience. “You can always find what you look for in others, good or bad.”
“Words have power,” he added. “They have the power to hurt or heal, to destroy or build.”
Arcanum Schools Superintendent John Stephens said that earlier in the day, the Rachel’s Challenge program was presented to the district’s middle school and high school students.
“This fits in well with some of the programs we’re working on this year,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re recognizing positive behavior among our students.”
Jason Stephan, Arcanum High School principal, agreed, saying that as a result of Rachel’s Challenge, the school has selected 40 students to be trained to help implement the program.
“Our kids are already good kids,” he remarked, “but we’d like to see what kind of greater difference we can make in the school, community and the world. We want to use this as a catalyst to keep kindness and compassion building in our school.”
“It’s a powerful message,” Stephan added. “It hits you like a ton of bricks.”
For more information on Rachel’s Challenge, visit the organization’s website at www.rachelschallenge.org.
Erik Martin may be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 937-569-4314.