Schools remember Rachel, Columbine shootings

COSTA MESA — Rachel Joy Scott was remembered this week for living a short life with kindness and compassion.

She believed that small acts of kindness could bring about ripples of change in the world.

And, before her early death, she challenged others to follow her lead. After she was murdered, her father set up a nonprofit, Rachel's Challenge, to keep spreading her message.

Rachel was the first of 13 killed in the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999.

"We forget how the smallest thing can impact someone's day," said Ali Nourbakhsh, the speaker for the Rachel's Challenge events Tuesday at Costa Mesa middle and high schools.

More than 250 students responded by pledging to follow her lead and start a campus club, Friends of Rachel, or FOR, said Costa Mesa High School Principal Phil D'Agostino.

The organization put on two assemblies for students and another at night for parents to see what their children had experienced earlier in the day.

"We believe that Rachel's Challenge will set off a chain reaction of kindness and compassion that we believe will transform our school," Costa Mesa Middle School Principal Aaron Peralta told parents at the evening assembly.

Images from Columbine of panicking parents, grief-stricken students and emergency personnel were projected onto a giant screen as video footage of the shooting was replayed for the audience.

Pictures and videos of Rachel's life, excerpts from her diary and first-person testimonials were read aloud to give the audience a better picture of who she was.

The assembly brought a silence to the gym during the student assemblies — an unusual occurrence when students get together, Associated Student Body President Devan Davidson told parents.

"I didn't see anyone looking down or away," she said. "Everyone was just so into the speaker or the video."

For parent Rhonda Howard, the assembly brought back memories about what happened at Columbine. She lived down the street from the Denver-area school when the shootings happened.

"You don't think about it day to day, but when you see it, it all comes back," she said.

The Costa Mesa resident said that her son, Connor Howard, 15, came home from school Tuesday and talked about how the program had moved him. Connor urged his mother to attend that night's assembly.

Although they had lived so close to the real-life crime scene, Rhonda Howard said she had never really talked about it with her son, but that fact wouldn't be true much longer.

"We'll be talking about it," she said.

Take Rachel's Challenge

Look for the best in others

Dare to dream: write down goals and keep a journal

Choose positive influences

Kind words and little acts of kindness

Start a chain reaction

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