April 20, 1999
Most middle schoolers weren't even born in 1999 when the Columbine High School massacre took the lives of 12 students and one teacher near Denver, Colorado, as a horrified nation looked on.
Today's eighth-grade classmates of 2013 had just begun making their way into this world- little bundles of joy presenting a sharp contradiction to the tragedy out west where parents were mourning, and burying their children.
I know - I was pregnant at the time with my youngest.
My husband and I had planned to name him Dillon, but changed our minds when one Columbine shooter turned out to be a Dylan (Klebold). The other was Eric Harris. Both boys were seniors at the school, and also took their own lives during the attack.
My little boy was born just eight days after the massacre, and I remember thinking at least once or twice, "What kind of world did we bring this baby into" while watching coverage of the unnecessary tragedy unfold.
Crystal Lake School District 47
So here it is 13 years later, and the babies have grown into teens and tweens themselves, and this week in Crystal Lake District 47 middle schools they will hear the story of 17-year-old Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine attack.
Rachel's writings and messages - found later by her parents - have culminated into a nationwide movement for change entitled, "Rachel's Challenge." The program aims to end bullying and encourages students - of all ages - to reach out and show kindness to one another.
According to a description of the program, Rachel left a legacy of reaching out to those who were different, kids who were picked on by others, or who were new at her school. Shortly before her death she wrote,
"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. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
Although Rachel was a typical teenager, she had a passion and conviction that she would someday change the world. The Scott family, believing Rachel's story would inspire others to make the world a better place, created a series of student-empowering programs and strategies to help students and adults combat bullying, feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion, according to information presented by District 47.
'Rachel's Challenge' Comes to Middle Schools, Community
Locally, the McHenry County regional superintendent of schools has been working with area districts to identify anti-bullying programs and bring more light to the issue, according to a notice published by District 47 Superintendent Donn Mendoza.
A decision was made to bring "Rachel's Challenge," which already has reached more than 17 million people since its inception, to students, families and community members, Mendoza said in the letter.
"This event is designed to build upon and support the rich tradition within this community of providing positive learning experiences for our children such that it has a lasting impact on them into adulthood," Mendoza said on the District 47 webpage.
"In all of my 17 years as an educator, I have never experienced anything as powerful and as moving as the Rachel's Challenge assembly I attended last year. I am thrilled that Rachel's Challenge is coming to District 47...."
Students at Bernotas, Lundahl and Hannah Beardsley middle schools will participate in the "Rachel's Challenge" students-only assemblies today, Wednesday and Thursday.
Parents, community leaders and the rest of the general public are invited to a free presentation of the program at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at Hannah Beardsley Middle School, 515 E. Crystal Lake Ave., Crystal Lake.
More information about the assemblies and the program can be found on the Rachel's Challenge webpage.