“I have this theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same,” Rachel Joy Scott wrote in a class essay a month before she was killed on April 20, 1999 at age 17 in the tragic shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO.

Established by Rachel’s father and stepmother, Darrell and Sandy Scott, Rachel’s Challenge is an organization that exists “to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change…by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”

A project of the Rotary Club of Lakewood and Rocky River, Rachel's Challenge was sponsored on behalf of the Rocky River City Schools. A $2,500 District Simplified Grant provided half the funding, with the club contributing the balance.
Two presentations on September 26, one for middle school and one for high school students, were followed by a training session where student leaders from both schools and Rotarians gathered to consider how to start a chain reaction in their schools and the community.

Frank Simmons, a Rachel’s Challenge program presenter, shared Rachel’s life story with the students. His presentations included surveillance video from within the school and news footage of the unforgettable events the day that Rachel, 11 of her classmates and one teacher, were killed by two troubled students. Recorded commentary focused on the ways Rachel touched others, including total strangers and her siblings.

Students were given an actionable set of goals intended to reduce bullying and promote tolerance and understanding in their schools and community. Many students and educators were moved to tears. Afterwards, the students were invited to sign banners to indicate their willingness to accept the challenge.

Parents and community members learned about the program at a separate presentation that evening. District Governor Julie West attended the meeting and stated afterwards, “I am so glad I was able to attend. This is an outstanding project. It truly reflects this year's Rotary theme, Peace Through Service.”

Jean Rounds, a member of the Rotary club and of the Rocky River School Board, said, “There is such a wonderful connection between Rotary’s mission and the message of Rachel’s Challenge. It’s a wonderful way to have interaction between Rotarians and the Rocky River youth.”

Student clubs have been formed in both schools to determine how to change the culture through positive encouragement of their peers. The Rotary club is committed to the project long-term, and members are attending the school club meetings, assisting in the students’ planning and offering support.

To date, nearly 19 million students, educators and parents worldwide have been reached by Rachel’s Challenge.