Nearly 1,000 Deer Creek Middle School students, faculty and staff on Friday morning formed a human chain around the school, holding hands in an enormous circle. The circle was formed to support “Rachel’s Challenge” and create a “chain reaction of kindness.”
Rachel Joy Scott was the first student killed in the Columbine High School shooting that killed 12 students and one teacher on April 20, 1999. A junior at Columbine, Rachel was a prolific writer, keeping journals constantly and creating inspirational essays and thoughts.
Since Rachel’s tragic death, her father Darrell Scott has made it his life’s work to turn her tragedy into a triumph. He spends his time talking to groups of students, teachers, lawmakers and anyone else who will listen about Rachel’s messages of kindness and acceptance.
Scott spoke to faculty and staff at Deer Creek schools in August and inspired a group of teachers, including Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Jena Nelson, to join the cause. In tandem with the school’s annual Red Ribbon Week, the Deer Creek middle-schoolers participated in Rachel’s Challenge.
“Red Ribbon Week is usually a focus on anti-drugs and alcohol, but we really wanted to focus on changing the culture as a whole,” Nelson said. “Because if you really sustain and change a culture, all of these other things will fall into line as well.”
The culmination of that challenge was the human chain.
Hands touching hearts
The idea of holding hands in a never-ending circle was inspired by something Rachel’s family discovered, long after her death. They had already located her journals and essays, but while moving a dresser in her room, they found something nobody could have expected.
On the back of her dresser was an outline of her hand. Inside the outline were Rachel’s handwritten words: “These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts.”
“We thought we would bring our hands together to join in saying how we are going to change the culture of our school and encourage others to join us,” Nelson said.
Rachel’s parents found the essence of their daughter in one of her journal entries titled “My Ethics: My Codes of Life.”
Look for the best in others
Dare to dream
Choose positive influences
Use kind words
Start a chain reaction of kindness
Lessons of kindness
“I think that these kids are going to take the lessons they’ve learned this week and pick up the legacy that Rachel was never able to see and fulfill herself,” Nelson said. “They’re going to run with it. By living with her example, that’s going to cause a chain reaction of kindness.”
A chain reaction of kindness is one person, doing one kind thing, which leads to another person’s kindness and so on.
“We are not asking for big events all the time,” Nelson said. “We’re asking for simple acts of kindness. Simple acts of respect and compassion. Those kinds of things will hopefully change our culture and empower our kids with empathy and love.”
For more about Rachel’s Challenge, go online to rachelschallenge.org.