'Rachel's Challenge' presented to Windermere students, parents

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Tue., Oct. 18, 2011
'Rachel's Challenge' presenter Kristi Krings speaks to the crowd of Windermere School students' parents at Ellington High School on Oct. 13. Photo by Steve Smith.
'Rachel's Challenge' presenter Kristi Krings speaks to the crowd of Windermere School students' parents at Ellington High School on Oct. 13. Photo by Steve Smith.

On Oct 13, fifth- and sixth-graders at Windermere School saw a presentation about Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first of 13 people who lost their lives in the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. Since then, Scott’s writings - about compassion and treating other people with love and respect - have touched off an international campaign, through presentations that sometimes attract thousands. Rachel also appeared to have predicted, in her diary entries as well as through conversations with family and friends, that not only would she die young, but that she would also “touch millions of people’s hearts.”

To date, more than 15 million people have heard the “Rachel’s Challenge” presentations. “She knew she was going to die young, she knew she was going to change the planet,” said one of Rachel’s friends, in a video clip. “In the end, that’s exactly what she did.” Scott’s idea was that a small act of kindness could create a “ripple effect” and beget more kindness.

The presentations at Windermere were followed that evening by another one for parents at the Ellington High School auditorium. Presenter Kristi Krings said the reaction from the students was very enthusiastic. “It was really fun to be there with them,” she said. “They were just on fire about creating a more compassionate culture in their school.”

The presentation issues five specific challenges for people of all ages to try to practice in their lives. The challenges include eliminating prejudice by looking for the best in others, dreaming big by writing down goals and keeping a journal, choosing positive influences, speaking with kindness and starting one’s own chain reaction, beginning with friends and family.

Krings asked the audience to think about the closest people in their lives. “I want you to go to those people and tell them how much you care about them,” she said. “I promise you that they will never forget that conversation. Someday, if you are not around, they will remember that conversation, and someday, if they are not around, you will be glad that you did.”

In the afternoon, some students participated in a 90-minute training session to discuss how to become leaders in sustaining the momentum created by the assembly through formation of a “Friends of Rachel” club at Windermere School.

Krings said the presentation for the students tones down some of the details of the shootings, as well as some of Rachel’s writings that were more eerily prescient. “We have a little less footage of the actual event. We leave out some of her premonitions,” she said. “We find that kids in the younger age group tend to process that differently.” She added that the attendance of parents was great, and indicative of the students’ interest, and hopefully that translates to discussions around Ellington families’ dinner tables.

“They were here tonight, and that means that the students were excited enough to get people to take time out of their busy schedules to come and hear the presentation,” Krings said. “Parents hearing the story is important, so they can speak the same language their kids learned today, and be aware of what’s going on in the school. We hope that they’ll discuss it at home and implement some of the challenges that we gave them.”

For more information, visit www.rachelschallenge.org.

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