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Columbine victim challenges Turlock students to show kindness, compassion
Rachels challenge
A Turlock High School student stares in awe during a school assembly Tuesday. The assembly introduced students to Rachels Challenge, the inspirational story of the first victim in the Columbing High School shootings in 1999. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Rachel Scott had a premonition she was going to die young. She knew it so much that she would even tell friends and family it would happen. Rachel also knew that her words would change the world.

Just 10 minutes before she was killed Rachel was drawing a picture of a pair of eyes crying 13 tears. As the tears fell they changed to blood and growing under their crimson fall was a rose growing out of the ground. It was written on the last page of her diary. Her teacher asked her to put her diary away to pack up for class ending and Rachel said “I’m not done yet.”

On April 20, 1999 Rachel Scott was the first victim killed during the horrific school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. In total there were 13 people killed on that day — the same number of tears in her drawing. Within months after her murder her diary writing and words would begin to inspire young people across the country to act with kindness and today more than 14 million people worldwide have heard Rachel’s Challenge.

Thousands of 7th through 12th grade students in Turlock heard the powerful and thought-provoking story about the life and dream come true for Rachel Scott.

In the months after Rachel’s death her family discovered a set of six diaries written by Rachel and an essay she had written for school just one month before she died — it was entitled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life.” In the essay she wrote about the power of compassion and honesty in dealing with others and how she believed in giving people a chance before judging them.

“Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer … My definition of compassion is forgiving, loving, helping leading and showing mercy for others … People will never know how far a little kindness can go,” she wrote.

The essay and the diaries led Rachel’s family to create Rachel’s Challenge, a five-point message of kindness, caring and compassion for others and it challenges students to be better people.

“This really is a very serious, powerful message. When kids are walking out afterwards you can see that they are really thinking about it and it fits in well with our Character Counts program. It makes the kids think that their words can heal rather than harm,” said Gil Ogden, TUSD director of student services.

The first of Rachel’s Challenges calls for students and members of the community to erase prejudice and look for the best in others, give a person three chances before we make a determination about them. The stories behind the challenges are just as powerful. Rachel’s brother, Craig, was hiding underneath a table in Columbine High School’s library when the two killers began their rampage and later approached his table. The two killers shot Craig’s friend Isaiah, because he was African-American.

The second Rachel’s Challenge is to dream big. Rachel was an avid writer and she would write down goals and she kept a regular journal with entries about her future and words of inspiration. In her diary Rachel wrote “I’m going to be an impact on the world.”

Her third goal is to choose positive influences and reach out to students with special needs, new students and those students who are being picked on. The fourth challenge is to use words of kindness.

Lastly, to start the chain reaction Rachel challenges all students to tell those you love how much you love them each day because tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Over the years people have take notice of Rachel’s chain reaction theory. Some communities have built a paper link, one reaching 28 miles long.

Turlock High School students were moved by Rachel’s challenge and her chain of kindness.

“I’m going to think a lot more about how I treat others and I will take Rachel’s Challenge,” said freshman Sara Pendergrass.

For more information on Rachel’s Challenge or how your school or community can hear her message visit

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.