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Venture Academy students step up

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Darrell Scott, the father of the first murder victim in the April 20, 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, speaks to high school students at Venture Academy of the San Joaquin County Office of E...


POSTED April 17, 2014 12:21 a.m.

Hundreds of high school students accepted Rachel’s Challenge this week.

That challenge is to start a chain reaction of good deeds and random acts of kindness. It’s a challenge that came out of the words of a 17-year-old victim – Rachel Joy Scott. She was the first victim of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado on April 20, 1999 which also claimed the lives of 12 students and a teacher.

The challenge was personally delivered to the high students of San Joaquin County of Education’s Venture Academy in Stockton by Rachel’s father, Darrell Scott. It comes from the essay that the teen-ager, who was a junior at the time of her death, wrote just days before she was killed, and which her family did not know about until a few days after her death.

In her school essay, “My Ethics, My Codes of Life,” Rachel 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.”

These are the codes of life that have been embraced and shared by millions of people throughout the world and which were presented to the Venture Academy student which make up Rachel’s Challenge:

• 1. Look for the best in others. By accepting this challenge, you won’t have any problem with prejudice, Darrell Scott elaborated.

• 2. Dream big dreams. “Rachel challenged all of us to dream,” Darrell Scott said. One advice he shared with the students on how to realize those dreams is to write down your goals and to keep a journal, the way his daughter did. “Write down your own goals in life,” he said.

• 3. Choose positive influences. Darrell Scott said his daughter reached to the disabled, those who were new at her school, and those who were picked on or put down by others. Rachel’s family was surprised to hear the stories shared by many people who were touched by the teen-ager’s acts of kindness. Videotaped testimonies from these people were part of the presentation given by Darrell Scott during the hour-long program held in the Frederick Wentworth Building at the county Office of Education office on Arch Road. Among them was a young man who said, “Rachel died without knowing she saved my life from suicide.”

• 4. Speak with kindness, not with cruelty. Words can hurt or heal. The chain reaction that was started by Rachel Scott’s words has resulted in untold numbers of acts of kindness by people who have been touched, changed, and challenged by her message, Darrell Scott said.

Rachel Scott concluded her essay with these words: “I am sure that my codes of life may be very different from yours, but how do you know that trust, compassion, and beauty will not make this world a better place to be in and this life a better one to live? My codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached, but test them for yourself, and see the kind of effect they have in the lives of people around you. You just may start a chain reaction.”

Rachel’s Challenge, which has been the subject of several books and award-winning television programs, is a nationwide school outreach program for the prevention of teen violence.

Student Bethany Zanutto summed up the reaction of her fellow students to the story of Rachel Scott in just a few words, “It’s dramatic and meaningful.”

The program concluded with many of the students lining up to sign the large banner hanging on the wall, below the words that read: “I Accept Rachel’s Challenge.”

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