Accepting the challenge

Students to hear from Columbine victim's family

Cassie Rogers was in the third grade when two Columbine High School students took their peers hostage, killing classmates and then themselves.

She remembers the incident vividly.

"It was really surprising and sad," said Rogers, now a Moffat County High School junior. "It was in the state of Colorado, and everybody had connections. Hearing all the stories of the people who were killed was touching and sad."

That's why the Student Council representative is helping spread the word about Rachel's Challenge, an event that brings in friends and family of Rachel Scott, the first Columbine massacre first victim.

Selected speakers from Rachel's Challenge will visit Craig on Jan. 29 to speak with students and community members about violence, respect and tolerance.

"I am really excited because it's a good thing for our school and it's really encouraging," Rogers said. "I hope everyone sees they need to treat everyone nicer."

The student program includes a 9 a.m. whole school assembly and a 10:30 a.m. gathering of 30 selected student leaders, who school officials think represent varied populations at the high school.

Dorie Hafey, high school teacher and Student Council adviser, said she hopes to meet with the student group throughout the school year so its members will continue spreading a message of kindness throughout the student body.

The group also will include four Craig Middle School students.

"When they're freshmen, they can help carry this over," Hafey said.

The Rachel's Challenge presentation also includes an evening session for community members, to be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at the high school auditorium.

Hafey hopes to attract not just parents, but also business owners, church congregations and other community leaders.

"We want everybody there," she said. "Hopefully it is a chain reaction."

The Student Council is sponsoring the $3,800 program with funds raised at the Homecoming and Snowball dances.

Hafey said Rachel's Challenge seems particularly moving after the school shootings of late 2006, including the October shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, located 38 miles from Columbine.

"It is very real and it is very scary, and something that makes me very scared as a teacher," Hafey said.

Recent incidents in Moffat County -- multiple suicides and several former students charged with attempted murder after an alleged shootout with police in Casper, Wyo. -- make this presentation appropriate, too, Hafey said.

"Our community's been through a lot," she said. "Maybe this is impeccable timing. Hopefully this will make people reach out more."

Haffey thinks Rachel's Challenge could change the community's culture.

"(The organizers) want to create more positive environments. They want more trust, more honesty, more compassion, more caring," Hafey said. "I hope this will help diverse populations become more supportive and more interested in each other.

"They are one. They are all Moffat County High School students. They should be proud of who they are and where they come from."

And even small changes are valuable.

"I feel like if (Rachel's Challenge) changes just one household or one place of work or one student's life, it was worth it," Hafey said.

For more information on the program, visit www.rachelschallenge.com.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.