Organization motivated as a response to Columbine comes to Southmoreland

On April 20, 1999, Rachel Joy Scott, a 17-year-old junior at Columbine High School, meets her friend, Richard Castaldo, also 17, for lunch outside the school near the senior parking lot.

Suddenly, gunfire erupts from the parking lot. Two gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, both 18, murder Scott and paralyze Castaldo, making them the first victims of a shooting spree that left 12 dead and 27 injured.

What happened at Columbine nearly 20 years ago, unfortunately, seemingly began a trend in the United States; there have been more than  270 school shootings since then, according to a 2016 article by ABC News.

However, through this trend of darkness, one organization has been trying to spread a trend of joy and understanding.

“Rachel’s Challenge,” organized in memory of Rachel Scott by her brothers, Craig and Mike, aims to “enhance the caring and supportive learning environment of schools, essential for academic achievement,” according to

Rachel’s Challenge travels throughout the United States spreading Scott’s message of “happiness, purpose and love.”

On Thursday, Dec. 6, they traveled to the auditorium at Southmoreland High School.

The speaker for the challenge that evening, Chris (known mononymously to the audiences), used personal anecdotes about his own life to show how he has accepted the “challenge.”

“I have a personal relationship with the Scott family,” Chris said. “I’ve met her brothers and all of the friends she made through her short life, and I’ve gotten very close with them and I’ve heard their stories.”

The presentation gave accounts of those impacted by Scott’s compassion.

“She went out of her way to help people no matter their skin color, how smart they were or what sports they place,” said Chris.

Rachel wrote in an essay for her English class that described her life philosophy.

“I have this theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same,” she wrote.

The challenge itself has five parts to it: Look for the best in others; dream big; choose positive influences; speak with kindness; and start your own “chain reaction.”

“Rachel is changing lives even now, 20 years after her death,” Chris said the presentation.

Southmoreland senior Dakota Coffman said he found the presentation”very moving and emotional.”

Though Columbine shocked the world and began an unfortunate trend of sorrow and dismay, it also gave the world the story of Rachel Joy Scott, whose hope that people will continue to show compassion continues to live on nearly 20 years after the devastating hatred of Columbine.

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