Chain reaction

Family friend of Columbine victim asks students to spread kindness in school, community

Rachel Scott predicted her death.

In May 1998, she wrote in her journal, "This will be my last year, Lord. I've gotten what I can. Thank you."

Less than a year later, Scott became the first victim in the Columbine High School shooting.

"Everybody was crying," Moffat County High School freshman Anastasia Todd said Monday after a presentation by Scott family friend, Jim May.

"It was just incredible. She was able to understand she was going to die."

May presented Rachel's Challenge to high school students Monday morning and to community members Monday night. It is a presentation meant to encourage audience members to "start a chain reaction" of kindness in their schools, at their workplaces and at home.

"It doesn't take big acts," May said. "They multiply. Just start and see what happens."

He shared Scott's story of being the first one murdered on April 20, 1999, while she was eating lunch on her school lawn. Scott was one of 13 victims killed by two high school students who opened fire at the high school, then took their own lives.

Now May and other Scott family members and friends travel around the country, sharing her story and hoping to inspire audiences.

"We want to turn this culture around from violence to kindness," May said.

May also met with a small group of about 40 high school and Craig Middle School students, a group dubbed the Friends of Rachel, on Monday morning.

He taught the students -- who will meet weekly to spread the Rachel's Challenge message -- tactics for reaching out to others.

He advised them not to underestimate the importance of behind-the-scenes kindness.

"Do what's right when nobody's looking," May said. "You'll change the world doing that."

Small acts of kindness are what defined Scott, May said. He described situations when Scott offered to eat lunch with a student new to her school and stood up for a student who was being bullied.

"I want you to think of ways -- creative ways -- that you can show kindness to those around you," May said.

That's what Scott asked for in an essay she wrote for a high school class one month before her death.

"I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same," Scott wrote. "People will never know how far a little kindness can go."

After May's presentation, he asked students to sign Rachel's Challenge, an agreement that asks them to:

Eliminate prejudice by looking for the best in others

Dare to dream

Choose positive influences

Small acts of kindness equal a huge impact

Start a chain reaction with family and friends.

"If you're serious about keeping this challenge, we want you to sign it," May said.

Dustin Carlson, one eighth-grader chosen to carry the message on as he grows, said his school could benefit from the program.

"There's a lot of bullying, name calling and all that," Carlson said.

Todd thinks students were touched and will take to heart the message Rachel's Challenge brought to the students.

"I think it'll open people's eyes that there's more to people than just their appearance," Todd said. "It inspires me to pass on kindness."

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

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

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