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Rachel’s Challenge visits Crystal Lake students

Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Teachers Erick Merke (left), Cathy Mattoon, Joan Clark and Mal Keenan listen Wednesday while the uncle of Rachel Joy Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999, spoke to students at Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake during an anti-bullying assembly called Rachel’s Challenge.

CRYSTAL LAKE – In six personal journals and diaries, Rachel Joy Scott left her family, and ultimately the world, a legacy of kindness and compassion.

Scott was a young teen – and the first person killed in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 in Colorado – but her wisdom knew no bounds. The shootings also left 12 others dead.

It’s Scott’s message that has, as she put it, “started a chain reaction.” A nonprofit in her memory has grown to be the biggest school assembly nationwide.

Rachel’s Challenge is shown in nine countries and this year will be brought to 2,700 schools, according to the organization.

This week, the emotional assembly is in Crystal Lake.

Scott’s uncle, Larry Scott – one of four family members traveling today with Rachel’s Challenge – started his local tour with a schoolwide assembly Wednesday at Bernotas Middle School. Today he will be at Hannah Beardsley Middle School for a student assembly and, later, a parent presentation.

Through the family’s grief, Rachel’s Challenge was born. The anti-violence assembly asks students to eliminate bullying, set personal goals and treat others with respect and kindness. Rachel’s writing has become the backbone of the Challenge.

Larry Scott read excerpts from her journals, one of which has a bullet hole through it – a reminder of how Rachel died.

What is revealed through her journals is that Rachel was a compassionate young woman who reached out to any student in need.

Often compared to Holocaust survivor Anne Frank, who predicted she would die young, Rachel was a teenager but knew that she would “reach millions.”

There were five challenges Larry Scott asked of the middle school students: look for the best in others; dream big; choose positive influences; speak with kindness; and start their own chain reaction with family and friends.

“It takes a special person to constantly look for the best in others,” Larry Scott told the students. Many of them and teachers cried during the assembly.

After the presentation. Principal Lori Sorensen talked about the impact of Larry Scott’s words.

“You changed our school. Not tomorrow, but today” she told him, and said that because he’s speaking at other Crystal Lake schools, he’s “helping to change our community.”

The free evening showing for parents is at 7 p.m. today at Hannah Beardsley Middle School, 515 E. Crystal Lake Ave. The event is not intended for small children, and parents should use discretion in deciding which family members attend the event.


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