Rachel’s Challenge hits the hearts of high school students

The gymnasium of Ponoka Composite High School held about 500 students Feb. 24, some teary-eyed and all silent after the presentation of Rachel’s Challenge.

Kelsey Lank

By Jasmine Franklin

The gymnasium of Ponoka Composite High School held about 500 students Feb. 24, some teary-eyed and all silent after the presentation of Rachel’s Challenge.

To a passerby, the heart-warming presentation could have been mistaken as an assembly. But on closer observation, what could be seen in that gym was a message of kindness being delivered to students. Student Kelsey Lank, 17, watched the presentation with tears falling down her cheeks.

“You think about your own family members and what it would be like to lose them and it’s just so hard to imagine,” Lank said. “When you see something as amazing as (this) it’s hard not to (start doing little acts of kindness). (Rachel) doesn’t have the chance to do these things anymore so if we can do it for her that allows her to do it as well.”

Presenter Derek Kilgore, a close family friend of the Scott family, enlightened students and teachers from PCHS, Diamond Willow, Mecca Glen, St. Augustine, Crestomere and Outreach schools, about the legacy of the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting, Rachel Scott who died April 20, 1999

“I’m very honored to be making these presentations,” Kilgore said. “This family has changed my life and the presentations are always very moving.”

Throughout the hour-long presentation, students were encouraged to take up Rachel’s Challenge, which began with a young woman and her big heart. Pieces of Scott’s writing from her last essay entitled, “My Ethics, My Codes Of Life,” were used throughout the hour to show her principles of life and how easy and important it is to help others.

“Compassion is the greatest form of love a human can offer,” Rachel said. “Test it for yourself and see.”

Students were given five challenges to commit to; challenges that Rachel felt were both easy to accomplish and would help unify the world and make it a kinder place.

Challenge 1 was to look for the best in others. Eliminate prejudice and see them for who they are.

“When you meet some one for the first time, look for the good in them,” Scott wrote. “The prejudice will go away.”

Challenge 2: Dare to dream. Make big goals, write them down and believe. Students were encouraged to keep a journal, much like Rachel’s, and record one sentence or more at the end of every day.

The third challenge was to choose positive influences. Scott believed that input determines output and that what we do affects who we become.

Scott was the kind of person who sat next to the new girl at school during lunch and despite her small appearance, was not afraid to put up a fight for her disabled friends. Students heard that after Scott’s death, the family received an outpouring of emails describing Scott’s generosity and kindness to others.

Challenge 4 encompasses the kindness theory and encouraged students to find three groups of people to be kind to.

“Don’t let your character change colour with your environment,” Scott wrote. “Find out who you are and let it stay its true colour.”

And last but not least, Scott’s last challenge left to the world is to use kind words and perform little acts of kindness. Start your own chain reaction; beginning with the people you love most.

“Words really do have a lot of power,” Kilgore said. “And little things have huge results.”

At 13 years old, Scott traced her own hands on her wall and inside them wrote that her hands would some day touch millions of lives. While alive, Scott practiced these concepts and changed the lives of her peers. Now, through these presentations her legacy and message is being delivered all over the world.

“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.

In 2009, nearly 3,500 presentations were made internationally, reaching out to audiences of more than 1.3 million people. So far in 2010, about 500 presentations have been given with 176,812 audience members.

Rachel’s Challenge in Ponoka was sponsored by Ponoka Family and Community Support Services, Ponoka Victim Services, Ponoka Tri-Services and PCHS.