Rachel’s Challenge Visits UNH

Ana Abraham

On March 29, a group of UNH students filled the Douglas D. Schumann Auditorium in Buckman Hall to attend an event called Rachel’s Challenge. In memory of the first Columbine victim, Rachel Joy Scott, Rachel’s Challenge is an interactive training session aimed at teaching groups of students to create and inspire positive change. Attendees were encouraged to “start a chain reaction” of kindness and inspiration.

Since the program’s creation by Rachel Scott’s parents, over 17 million people in all fifty states and six different countries have participated in events. The program was created because Rachel was a teenager who saw an attainable goal of a better future, and she worked for it throughout her short life. Those close to her decided to continue her mission after her death by using her words as inspiration for the rest of the world.

Rachel had filled six journals with her thoughts before her death on April 20, 1999. Two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, went on a shooting rampage and killed twelve students and one teacher and wounded twenty-seven other people before killing themselves. It was the deadliest school shooting in American history.

A month before her death, Rachel had written an essay entitled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” for her English class. In it, she had outlined many of her beliefs. These same beliefs have built the Rachel’s Challenge program, which was responsible for averting at least 90 suicides among students in 2008 alone. (Source: Rachelschallenge.org). One of Rachel Scott’s cornerstone quotes is “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.”

The program is an hour and a half long and has five basic challenges, not the least of which is to speak with kindness. After Rachel’s death, a friend contacted her family saying that she had saved his life, and she never even knew it. The boy was disabled and the target of bullies at school, and on the day he planned to take his own life, Rachel stood up for him. That was the inspiration he needed to go on living. For this reason, one of the fundamental aspects of Rachel’s Challenge is to speak with kindness because words have the power to either hurt or heal.

The presenter finished by having the students close their eyes and think about the people who are most important to them. He then challenged them to make a point of talking to those people and leaving no words unspoken because if anything was learned from Rachel’s tragic death, it’s that anything can happen at any given time.

For more information on Rachel’s challenge, the presenter encouraged students to go to the official website, or Facebook.com/RachelsChallenge. He said that Rachel’s family and friends as well as those who work on her behalf like to know the impact that they’re making, and that Facebook has given them a new way to do so. They can now be connected in real time to any number of students who are continually inspired by Rachel’s Challenge.