The smoke is coming in. There are shots fired! The gunman is right outside the door!
These words were part of the 911 calls from Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. It was during the worst school massacre in U.S. history where 13 people were killed and and 27 were wounded. Rachel Joy Scott, a 13-year-old who wanted to change the world with kindness, became the first person at Columbine to die.
And yet, Rachel's message of spreading kindness is still gaining momentum and spreading around the world.
The message inspired students at Grayslake North High School this week. They embraced the ideas of Rachel's Challenge, an international organization dedicated to Rachel's legacy. The message has since been heard by 11 million people in five countries, said Nina Daniels, a speaker for Rachel's Challenge.
"Rachel wanted to start a chain reaction that has rippled around the world," she said. "Her goal at age 13 was to inspire millions of people. By the end of this year, over 17 million will have heard the message of Rachel's Challenge."
Through Rachel's Challenge, students accepted five challenges including:
- Looking for the best in others
- Daring to dream big
- Seeking positive influences
- Engaging in small acts of kindness
- Starting your own chain reaction to leave a legacy of compassion
Students and parents at Grayslake North were so moved by Rachel's story they signed banners to accept the challenge to spread kindness. Students also pledged to meet during monthly forums to keep the ideals moving forward. Daniels encouraged the students to transform the school by changing its culture.
"We should encourage other students and show them they aren't alone," said Rebecca Fuchs, a student in the GNHS Public Service Practicum class who spoke during the event.
Many students gave their testimony of how a parent, a friend, a teacher or a coach who made all the difference in the the world by reaching out to them. They pledged to take on Rachel's Challenge and not let it be a one day event.
"Today, you have seen your sons and daughters start a chain reaction in our schools," said D127 Superintendent Catherine Finger. She would like to see the concepts of Rachel's Challenge spread throughout all of the communities that feed into District 127.
"It was incredible to learn about Rachel's Challenge," said Hayley Rothenberg, a senior at Grayslake North High School. She spoke during the event, which her sister Lindsey, 10, and her mom, Lisa, also attended.
"It just cut you to the core," said Lisa Rothenberg, who had a pocket full of Kleenex to show how emotional she became during the presentation. "It made you stop and think."
Daniels said the students at Grayslake North were outstanding and really embraced Rachel's Challenge and the idea of starting a chain reaction of kindness.
For more information, visit www.rachelschallenge.org/ or contact Emily Weiss at firstname.lastname@example.org or Chris Kubic at email@example.com. Check back onto Grayslake Patch for future articles detailing the progress of Rachel's Challenge.