Columbine victim’s inspirational message shared at Rancho Santa Fe School event


By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

One of R. Roger Rowe School’s core values is to be a “caring community” and, on Oct. 20, students received a strong message of kindness, compassion and the power one person can have to impact others — and possibly the world. Students were impacted and inspired by a presentation from Rachel’s Challenge, a movement in memory of Rachel Joy Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School shootings of April, 20, 1999.

A repeat of the powerful presentation was given that night for school parents — there were very few dry eyes in the PAC at its conclusion.

Rachel’s Challenge shares several writings that Rachel left behind, one from a paper written six weeks 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.”

Rachel wrote that people may never know how far their act of kindness will reach — her surviving family has sought to make that message, and challenge to others, her legacy.

Her challenges include having the strength and faith to dream big, to choose positive influences in life, speak with kindness, start your own chain reaction and to tell the special people in your life that you love them because tomorrow is not always promised.

“Rachel’s last challenge is a chance to let your loved ones know how you feel,” said presenter Matt Salnick. “Rachel didn’t get to say goodbye.”

Columbine remains the country’s most deadly high school shooting in which 15 people were killed (including the two shooters) and 27 others were injured.

Rachel was 17 years old when classmates Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire and killed her as she ate lunch outside on the lawn. Her brother Craig was in the library, where most of the shootings took place.

In a video shown at the RSF School event, Craig described hiding under a table with his two friends. The shooters killed both of his friends as he laid between them, his life only spared as the shooters become distracted when a smoke alarm went off.

Craig said one of the last things his friend Isaiah Shoels, who was African American, heard in his shortened life were racial slurs from the shooters. Craig said one of Rachel’s challenges he hopes everyone embraces is to erase prejudice from their heart and lives, not to pre-judge people, something that Rachel always tried to do.

Rachel reached out to special needs students at school, as well as new students and those who were picked on. Just as she had written in her own words that people may never know how far an act of kindness could go, Rachel had no idea the impact of her small gestures of kindness. After her death, her family heard from a student with special needs who had been picked on and had planned to commit suicide before Rachel stuck up for him and befriended him. Another girl said on her first day at Columbine, Rachel wouldn’t let her sit alone — Rachel never knew but the girl had been sitting alone as she was still submerged in grief over the loss of her mother.

“All it takes it just a simple smile or a small act of kindness,” Salnick said. “You can start a chain reaction.”

Rachel had many premonitions about her life — several times it is mentioned in the six journals she left behind that she believed she would die young, even predicting in the spring of 1998 that it would be the last year of her life.

When she was little she traced her hands on the back of her dresser. A shown photograph of the dresser shows that next to the outlines of her small fingers she inscribed: “These hands will someday touch millions of people’s hearts.”

Rachel dreamt big and it came true: More than 15 million people have now heard her story.

“Rachel lived a life filled with kindness and compassion,” said he brother Craig in the video.

“Because of it, she’s changed the world.”

“You’ve seen what one girl can do,” said Salnick. “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?”

To learn more about Rachel’s Challenge, visit