Rachel's Challenge

(Rachel's Challenge program presenter Chris Mowery, South Park Middle School vice principal Lynn Como and me at the school in late February.)


     When her name popped up in my inbox, it didn't seem familiar to me. But there was something about it that made me click "open."  

     I've never met Lynn Como and I've never been to South Park Middle School. Lynn's email explained that she is the school's assistant principal. An educator. A mother of six. A woman passionate about children and the messages we teach them.

     So when her student council voted to bring in a presenter from a national organization called Rachel's Challenge, Lynn asked me if I wanted to watch their school-wide assembly. I jumped at the chance.

     In the extraordinary hour-long talk I witnessed, a few hundred fifth and sixth graders learned about Rachel Joy Scott, the first person shot and killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Rachel was only 17 years old when she died, just a few years older than they. That kind of finality has a way of speaking to a child, even one who wasn't even born when the worst-ever school massacre to date caused our country to reel in horror.

     Rachel's family always knew she was special. But they had no idea how extraordinary she was until they found five journals in her room after her death. In them, Rachel wrote the most insightful, uplifting messages, encouraging anyone who read her words to remember the power of even the smallest deeds to leave the biggest lasting impact on others.
     So overwhelmed by their daughter’s compassion and love for others, the Scott  family turned Rachel’s writings into one of the most motivational and powerful school presentations available.
    In its 20 years, Rachel’s Challenge has reached some 20 million school kids in all 50 states and across forty countries. But it is here in Pittsburgh where something extraordinary is happening.
    More than sixty Pittsburgh schools this school year alone have treated their students to the powerful and moving Rachel’s Challenge presentation… and with remarkable results. We and San Diego are the most active cities for Rachel’s Challenge presentations.


   I want to share with you video of what I experienced alongside those students at South Park Middle School. We sat in the darkness in the school gymnasium (hence the grainy video) and were awed by a single young woman's example. I hope that seeing it will, in just the slightest way, encourage you to start what Rachel believed could change the world: A chain reaction of kindness. 


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