Friday, September 11, 2009
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LCHS hosts Rachel's Challenge

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[September 11, 2009]  The public was invited to attend a special presentation Wednesday night at Lincoln Community High School, called Rachel's Challenge.

According to its Web site, the Rachel's Challenge Foundation is a nonreligious, nonpolitical, nonprofit organization whose mission is to "inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion."

Rachel Joy Scott, a 17-year-old junior, was the first student gunned down in the horrific Columbine massacre in 1999, as she sat outside the school entryway eating lunch with a friend.

Her younger brother, Craig, then 15, was a witness to the event. As the tragedy played out, he found himself under a table in the school library, where he witnessed the violent killings that included two of his best friends. He personally believes that his life was saved only because the shooters became distracted and disoriented when the school sprinkler system went off as a result of smoke in the building from all the gunfire and pipe bombs.

Soon after the Columbine incident, Rachel's father, Darrell Scott, began doing public addresses regarding the shooting, its aftermath and his daughter's life. He soon went on to create the Rachel's Challenge Foundation, which has won national recognition as a positive movement that encourages young and old alike to react to situations with kindness and compassion.

The foundation has approximately 30 presenters, including Rachel's father, her sister Dana, brother Scott and her good friend Brandie Orozco, who was the presenter at Lincoln High School.

The presentation does a brief overview of the events of the massacre but moves on quickly to focus on Rachel and her personal code of ethics.

Six weeks before her death, Rachel wrote an essay entitled "My Ethics, My Codes of Life" for one of her classes. This essay is the foundation of Rachel's Challenge, as the words that she wrote reflect what she as a young person wanted to be and wanted to help others become.

In the essay she wrote: "My definition of compassion is forgiving, loving, helping, leading and showing mercy for others. 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."

In the 45-minute presentation, Orozco talks about the acts of kindness that Rachel performed and backs this up with video testimonials from young people at Columbine High School who recount incidents when Rachel helped them by just being a good friend.

The presentation also points out a set of goals that will lead to a change in our social environment:

  1. Look for the best in others. Eliminate prejudice.

  2. Dare to dream. Set personal goals for life, write them down and keep a journal.

  3. Choose positive influences. Input determines output.

  4. Kind words and actions equal huge results.

  5. Start a chain reaction.

At the end of a very emotional presentation, Orozco asked the audience members to close their eyes and each concentrate on five or so people who are important parts of their lives. She then challenged them to make a point of contacting those people within the next three days and telling them just how important they really are. Finally, she asked the members of the audience to raise their hands if they would accept the challenge. In an audience of approximately 75, nearly every hand went up in response to her request.

Orozco had spoken at two all-school assemblies earlier in the day and told the audience about "Friends of Rachel," the FOR Club, that she had talked to the students about and the large response she got from those students.

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After the presentation, LCHS Principal Joyce Hubbard said that student government members were responsible for bringing Rachel's Challenge to Lincoln and that LCHS students will have the option of participating in the Friends of Rachel Club in a before-school program to be led by faculty members Elizabeth Schneider and Gayal Rademaker.

Schneider said that after the student assemblies, Orozco hosted what the foundation refers to as a "training" and that it was open to all students who were interested in moving forward with Rachel's Challenge and the FOR Club. She said that she and Rademaker were very pleased to see that about 200 students chose to attend the training.

The FOR Club will start meeting next week and will have a complete support program through the foundation, including a 35-week curriculum, a series of webinars and a Rachel's Challenge full-time coach who will assist the club directors in guiding the club in a positive direction.

The first step for the club is to accept Rachel's Challenge. In the lobby outside the auditorium a large banner was laid out for anyone to sign, saying that they were going to accept the challenge and work toward performing acts of kindness. The banner was filled with signatures of students, and at the end of the evening many adults in the audience also added their names.

Speaking directly to LDN, Orozco said that when the Rachel's Challenge Foundation began, no one really understood how far it would go. The foundation has met with nearly 1.5 million young people in over 1,000 schools, and clubs are growing across America


She and the other presenters spend several weeks a year on the road, meeting not only with students from elementary to college age, but with businesses as well, again encouraging corporations and their personnel to make positive changes in their work environment.

On a personal level Orozco said that there is a chain reaction of its own going on when she makes these presentations. She explained: "As I am trying to motivate young people, their response to this program motivates me to keep going."

To learn more about the Rachel's Challenge Foundation, visit

The high school Web site will also include information about the FOR Club and its activities as time progresses, and parents can access that info by visiting and looking for the Rachel's Challenge link.


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