Positive message comes from tragedy

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 21:15
Columbine addressed at local high schools
Jonathan Oliver speaks to Eagle River High students about Rachel Scott, a student who was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, on Monday, Sept. 24.

Look for the best in others.

Dream big.

Choose positive influences.

Speak with kindness.

Start your own chain reaction.

Jonathan Oliver asked Eagle River High students to undertake each of these five challenges during a presentation Monday, Sept. 24.

Oliver is part of Rachel’s Challenge, a program that teaches students and adults how to combat bullying and feelings of isolation. The program is based on the journal writings of Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.

Scott’s father and stepmom, Darrell and Sandy, started Rachel’s Challenge and have spread their message to more than 18 million people, Oliver said.

Through video clips of Scott’s friends, family and Columbine students, Oliver touched on each of the five challenges.

He stressed the importance of making smart decisions.

“The choices that we make today will determine who we are tomorrow,” Oliver said. “It can take one second to get into trouble that can take a lifetime to get out of.”

Oliver also addressed the power of words.

“Words can cut real deep,” he said. “It’s not a big deal when we dish it out, but it’s huge when you receive it.”

While Rachel Scott has posthumously influenced millions, her message isn’t about being perfect, Oliver said.

“It’s about making an effort every day,” he said. “She was just a young teenager who treated other people the way she wanted to be treated.”

Oliver held a similar presentation for students at Chugiak High on Tuesday, Sept. 25 and another one for the community later that night. Following the assembly at ERHS, Oliver conducted a training session with about 120 students to help them create a Rachel’s Challenge club.

The school club will be a way to sustain her message for future students, Eagle River principal Marty Lang said.

The goal of brining Rachel’s Challenge to Eagle River is to get students to think about how they treat others, Lang said.

“It is hopefully impacting them in a way that will really cause them to pause and reflect on themselves and how they interact with people,” he said.

Though some ERHS students in the audience were just toddlers when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher and injured 21 others before taking their own lives in Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999, most know what happened at Columbine.

Rachel’s Challenge uses that horrifying incident to spread an uplifting message, Lang said.

“It’s still an event that resonates,” he said. “I like that they take and build something positive from what was an American tragedy.”

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