2008-09-18 / News

Rachel's Challenge comes to North Kingstown High School

By Eileen M Daly

Rachel Scott, a beautiful 17- year-old girl, was the first person killed on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School.

According to Rachel's father, Darrell Scott, the diaries and other communications that Rachel left behind reveal her premonition that she would die young, but also that her short life would somehow touch millions of people's hearts.

After Rachel's death, her father discovered a drawing of her hand on the back of an old piece of furniture. She had traced her hand and written the words, "These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people's hearts," in the center.

In a video on the Rachel's Challenge website, Darrell Scott talks about the essay titled, "My Ethics. My Codes of Life," that Rachel composed one month prior to her tragic death. In it, Rachel put forth her theory that if one person would go out of their way to show compassion to another then it would start a chain reaction. No one can predict how far that one act of kindness will travel, Rachel said in her essay. According to her father, Rachel had already been living her code of life for several years before writing that essay.

In the years following Rachel's death, Darrell Scott shared Rachel's story with over five million people around the globe. The school program, Rachel's Challenge, emerged through his efforts. The program consists of several components including, in-school assemblies, an evening assembly for parents and community members, a training program for leaders in the school and an on-going support program. Five challenges are put forth for students: to eliminate prejudice in their lives, to keep a journal and/or diary and set goals, to be aware of the influences in their lives, to do the little things at home, in school and in the community and to find five people who mean a lot to them and let those people know they appreciate them. According to a participant on the website video, the program is successful because it touches the children's hearts rather than trying to reach them through their minds.

Reaching children's hearts is just what Paul Morse was looking for when he began researching programs to bring into the school. A Jamestown resident and father of three, Morse was reading the paper one morning and was distressed to find a story about violence involving children buried in the back of the paper. "I thought to myself, we are getting so immune to these kind of events they hardly even cause a reaction anymore," Morse said. Troubled by this revelation, Morse looked for a way to reach out to children, a way to reach their hearts. "I feel like we spend so much time cramming information into kids' heads, that we forget about reaching their hearts. I wanted to do something to help remedy that situation," Morse said.

He researched a number of different programs before happening upon the Rachel's Challenge Program. Morse liked the fact that Rachel's Challenge is more than just an assembly, that the program includes a community segment and that it is an on-going program rather than just a one-shot assembly. "I think the Rachel's Challenge Program really does get to kids' hearts and that's what we need to do if we are going to address the real issues. We are facing a crisis of meaning," Morse said.

Willing to make a personal effort to reduce violence in the schools and reach children's hearts, Morse pledged personal support for the program. He arranged for Rachel's Challenge to be held at North Kingstown High School on Sept. 25. Students will participate in an assembly during the day, followed by discussion periods. They will be encouraged to participate in the on-going programs offered through Rachel's Challenge. The community program will also be held on Sept. 25 at NKHS at 7:30 p.m. in the main auditorium, Morse said.

Morse would like to see the program offered in schools throughout Rhode Island, however, and is seeking sponsors and interested parties to assist him in making this a reality. For more information about Rachel's Challenge or to become a sponsor, e-mail Paul Morse at PMorse22@gmail.com

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