Rachel’s dream

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 12, 2009

News Editor

LUTCHER—Rachel Scott believed in two matters in a strangely nonchalant manner: she would die young, and she would have an impact on the world.

The first came to fruition when she became the first victim of two disturbed gunmen at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999.

The second is presently becoming a reality as her brother Craig and other members of her family travel the country preaching Rachel’s message of compassion.

Craig brought his multimedia story of tragedy and finding the positives in that tragedy to Lutcher High School this week.

From the get-go, Craig’s amiable nature was evident. The twenty-something’s easy-going personality put the teens in the packed auditorium at ease while simultaneously garnering their undivided attention. He clearly knew how to work the crowd, able to present dark events without allowing the mood to get too heavy yet also able to keep the room from descending into chaos.

After a short introduction, Craig got the program rolling with a short film about the events at Columbine. Though the footage was intense and disturbing and certainly got everyone’s attention, he insisted he was “not here to focus on a tragedy.”

Instead he moved on to a paper his sister wrote one month prior to the massacre called “My Ethics, My Codes of Life.”

“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,” she wrote. It is this passage that inspired “Rachel’s Challenge,” the title of the presentation.

Throughout the course of the assembly, Craig issued a series of five challenges to the students of Lutcher High.

The first challenge was to choose positive influences. He elaborated that, ironically, the shooters at the school had also wished to start a chain reaction, one of violence and hatred, because they chose to focus on the negative aspects. By focusing on the positive, he said, the students might be able to make themselves happier people, which is the first step to making others happy.

Next, he challenged the students to dare to dream. Part of this challenge consisted of writing down one’s goals and keeping a journal. His sister kept a journal, and he insisted it helped her to become the person she was.

His other challenges focused on creating the chain reaction Rachel dreamed of. Through kind words and actions, he said, the students could have a huge impact on those around them.

Throughout the afternoon, Craig moved the audience, both figuratively as he told the story of watching his two friends get shot during the massacre and literally as he inspired the kids to stand up, put their arms around each other and sway to the tune of “Lean On Me.”

Regardless of the material being presented, he managed to keep the audience enraptured. Scarcely a student budged when the dismissal bell rang, and Craig continued his talk to its conclusion.

Toward the end of the presentation, Craig quoted a letter Rachel wrote to her cousin, which stated, “Don’t let your character change color with your environment. Find out who you are and let it stay its true color.”

That quote encapsulated the theme of the entire afternoon and was the principle message Craig hoped the students would take home with them that evening. All in all, it was a surprisingly uplifting afternoon considering the events that inspired it.

After the teachers were treated to the presentation at a workshop at the start of the school year, parish educators thought it would be a good idea to get him to come to town once again, this time to speak to the students. In all, Craig gave three talks in St. James Parish throughout the day, so all the public high school students in the parish and many others in the community got the chance to hear his message.

Since its inception, “Rachel’s Challenge” has reached the ears of over one-and-a-half million people, with the entire Scott family taking part in one way or another.