Rachel’s Challenge coming to Farmington schools TuesdayIn 1999, a nation was saddened when two teenage boys opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo. The two disturbed teens killed 12 classmates and one teacher, and injured 23 others before taking their own lives.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
In 1999, a nation was saddened when two teenage boys opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo. The two disturbed teens killed 12 classmates and one teacher, and injured 23 others before taking their own lives.
There were televised images of the massacre for months afterward, of students evacuating the school, sobbing, scared for their lives and the lives of their friends.
But that was nine years ago. A different time for most of today’s Farmington students. Kids who are in high school now were maybe in third or fourth grade then; some middle school students were probably only in daycare. They did not understand the horror this nation felt as parents and teachers and administrators realized that, hey, this could happen in our own schools.
What today’s teenagers might not understand is that the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were driven to kill their classmates because they’d had enough of being bullied and picked on. It was a way to get even with others who had made them feel small.
The first student to die was a girl named Rachel Scott. After the massacre, her family found her diaries, and, ironically, in those diaries found the hopes of a young girl who wanted to make her school a better place. She saw the tensions between classmates, and had laid out a five-step challenge to them in hopes of creating a better way of life for everyone at her school.
Next Tuesday, Farmington’s middle school and high school students will get a chance to learn about and even implement Rachel’s goals. Thanks to a donation by Dakota Electric Association, Rachel’s Challenge, a nationally recognized program that promotes cultural change, compassion and the life goals Rachel had hoped to achieve.
“It’s a very colorful assembly that gets to the root cause of prejudice and hatred and counters that with kindness and basic compassion,” Rachel’s Challenge marketing director Andrew Strait said.
There are three assemblies scheduled for Tuesday — one at Farmington Middle School West, one at Farmington High School and one in the evening for families, parents and community members.
At the end of the school assemblies, students will be challenged to accept Rachel’s principles. Those who do will sign a banner, then become part of a training course designed to motivate students, promote volunteerism and encourage students mentoring one another for the good of the community. The group will start a club called Friends of Rachel.
Every school has a different method of promoting Friends of Rachel and participating in the community, Strait said. It is up to the member students to decide how they would like to achieve the goals laid out through Rachel’s Challenge. Some school clubs do volunteer work. Some do fund-raisers. Some members speak at school or public functions.
“The curriculum allows them to change the culture of the school, long term,” Strait said. “It’s different than just sending a speaker in for an hour. It’s up to them to change the climate and the culture of their school for years to come.”
DEA marketing director Joe Miller first heard about Rachel’s Challenge while attending a conference a few months back. It sounded interesting, so he proposed that DEA bring the program to the area.
“It looks like a really good program,” he said. “It has been a good program to promote cultural change, looking out for one another and caring for one another. That’s kind of what it’s all about.”
Rachel’s Challenge will also be presented at Eagan High School and Cannon Falls High School next week, through DEA’s donation. Nationally, Strait said, it will reach out to students in 1,200 schools this year.
The evening assembly for parents and the community begins at 7 p.m., at the Farmington High School auditorium. For more information, visit the web site, www.rachelschallenge.com, or e-mail Miller, jmiller@dakotaelectric. com.