CNY students challenged to be kind in honor of Columbine victim

OCM BOCES rolling out Rachel's Challenge this year

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - In the same week as a deadly school shooting in Washington, students in Central New York are learning about the life of a young girl who died 18-years ago when two classmates opened fire inside Columbine High School.

One of Rachel Joy Scott's journals was in her backpack the day she was killed. Eventually, police would return it to her family with a small section missing, where a bullet hole tore through the back cover.

Scott loved writing, a hobby she believed was feeding her soul. An essay she wrote focusing on the need for kindness and compassion in the world would ultimately lay the groundwork for Rachel's Challenge.

"To me, it is a presentation that brings hope to the hopeless. It is a program that allows there to be some sort of kindness and compassion in the the curriculum," said Yolanda Robinson.

Presenters, like Robinson, travel across the country sharing Scott's story with the blessing of the girl's family.

Plans for Robinson's visit to the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES were made months ago, when educators came up with the idea to make this year's BOCES theme "Culture Counts".

No one could have predicted the program would roll out as a family in Spokane prepares to bury their child, after the latest school shooting.

"It's always in the back of your mind because you hear of kids being bullied because they are different," said Dana Goessl, who has school-aged grandchildren.

Thursday night, relatives of students were invited to see the presentation that Robinson had already shared with classmates.

She challenges families to live by a code that Rachel Scott developed in her essay:

-Look for the best in others.
-Dream big.
-Choose positive influences.
-Speak with kindness
-Start your own "chain reaction" (of kindness).

The goal is to convince classmates to be more supportive, so the most withdrawn among them won't lash out.

First, students with OCM BOCES sign Rachel's Challenge. In the coming days they'll form clubs that promote kindness. Teachers are also given ideas to include compassion in classwork.

"You're thinking about different things when you are in school, about how you want to look in front of your friends. But, I'm definitely going to strive to be a lot better about who I want to be as a person," said Jessica Cook, a high school freshman.

Robinson warns of the danger of bullying because she has seen the impact across the country. But, she's also seen the impact of promoting Rachel's code.

"This challenge, if it goes the way I'm hoping it does, kindness...showing kindness, it could impact the world,' Goessl added.

Work that continues 18 years after Rachel Joy Scott's death.

Click here to find out more about Rachel's Challenge.

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