The deadly Apr. 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 13 dead and 27 wounded provided the avenue on Tuesday at Center Middle School for J.B. Braden, of Rachel’s Challenge, to bring a message of compassion and kindness to every student at the school.
“Compassion is the greatest form of love humans can offer,” Mr. Braden told the students, quoting the writings of Rachel Scott, a 17-year-old teenager who was the first to be shot to death on that fateful day at Columbine.
At the time of her death, Rachel left behind six diaries and several essays about her belief in God and how she wanted to change the world through small acts of kindness. Shortly before her death, Rachel wrote an essay for school stating, “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.”
Mr. Braden carried that theme throughout his hour-long presentation to students at staff, and at a community forum held on Tuesday night.
“One act of kindness and compassion can lead to another. You never know how far it can go, it can start a chain reaction,” Mr. Braden observed.
Challenging students to accept ‘Rachel’s Challenge,’ Mr. Braden outlined five points that are they centerpieces of Rachel’s Challenge---
•Eliminate prejudice from your heart.
•Treat others the way ‘you’ like to be treated.
•Choose positive influences.
•Speak words of kindness, not cruelty.
•Find ways to forgive yourself and others.
Mr. Braden said that Rachel Scott’s childhood writings urged people to “look for the best in others and then you won’t have to deal with prejudice.”
“Look hard enough and you will find something good in others,” Mr. Braden said.
When choosing positive influences, Mr. Braden urged students to “take it a step further, be a positive influence on others.”
Instead of using harsh words, Mr. Braden said that Rachel Scott chose to treat everyone with kindness.
“She used words that can heal and that weren’t cruel,” said Mr. Braden, advising students “It doesn’t hurt to forgive others.
“It is better to let hatred and anger go, instead of passing it on to others.”
Observed the speaker, “It doesn’t hurt to forgive others.”
In closing, Mr. Braden urged his audience to “Help make your school and community kind and compassionate. Start a chain reaction.”
Following Mr. Braden’s remarks, Mr. Randall Ebie, principal at Center, told students and staff, “We needed to hear this...Take [Rachel’s Challenge] and you will have the power to change the atmosphere of this school.”
Mr. Braden appearance in behalf of Rachel’s Challenge was brought to Center Middle School at the suggestion of Boardman policeman and school resource officer Sgt. C.W. Hillman Jr. of the Boardman Police Department.
“It’s a good concept to present to the students, and to the community,” Sgt. Hillman said.
Since Rachel’s Challenge began, her message has been presented to more than 2.5 million students across America.