- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2015

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - None of the students at Hope Middle School were alive when Rachel Scott was killed in a shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

But that does not mean her story and message of love cannot have an effect on them.

This year, all middle and high school students in Pitt County Schools are participating in Rachel’s Challenge, an organization started by Rachel’s parents that is dedicated to creating safe and connected school environments. Scott, along with 11 other students and one teacher, was killed in the attacks by senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on April 20, 1999.

An aspiring writer, Scott left behind several journals and essays, including an English assignment titled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life.” Its message was simple: the kindness of one person can start a chain reaction that will change the world.

Torski Arnold delivered Scott’s message to students at Hope Middle School last week during an emotional assembly. She shared the five tenants of Rachel’s Challenge: Look for the best in others and eliminate prejudice, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness, and start your own chain reaction.

Arnold said learning to love others is all about attitude.

“Rachel talked about us finding what we look for,” she said. “If we look for the worst in others, unfortunately we’re going to find it. But if we look for the best, we’ll absolutely find that, too.”

Arnold said by focusing on the best in others, it encourages others to become better.

“Once we find the light, we can be a beacon, we can help their light shine brighter,” she said.

An important part of Rachel’s Challenge is embracing those who are different, Arnold said. Scott targeted her kindness toward three specific groups: special-needs students, new students and those who were being bullied.

She helped students like Adam, a special-needs child who was contemplating suicide until Scott befriended him, and Amber, a new girl at school grieving the loss of her mother.

Being kind to others does not require any special talent, Arnold said.

“What Rachel did for Adam that day in the hallway, what she did for Amber in that lunchroom, you can do that, too,” Arnold said.

Hope Middle School guidance counselor Kristin Jeffries said she believes Scott’s message will have an effect at the school.

“I hope that they re-evaluate what they do every day and become kind and compassionate to those around them,” she said. “Not that they aren’t already kind, but we always need these reminders.”

The assembly sparked emotional reactions from students, many of whom were tearful by the end of the event.

“It definitely got to your heart,” seventh-grader Rachel Porter said.

In response to the challenge, the school is starting a chapter of the Friends of Rachel club.

Arnold said she hopes the club will bring students closer.

“We want school to feel more like family,” she said. “We want this to be a place of kindness and compassion and support, even if you may not have that at home.”

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Information from: The Daily Reflector, https://www.reflector.com


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