On April 20, 1999, Kimberly Barr wasn’t even born yet. It would be another three years before the now-sixth grader at Sullivan Middle School came into the world.
And yet, the events of that day at Columbine High School in Colorado were still painful enough to move Kimberly to tears on Thursday morning, as she and the entire student body listened to “Rachel’s Challenge.”
Rachel’s Challenge is a program that was born out of the story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first of 13 victims shot and killed by two classmates at the school. Dozens of Rachel’s Challenge speakers travel around the world to challenge students to start a “chain reaction of kindness,” something Rachel had written about in her extensive diaries.
Sullivan Middle School counselors Sandra Holeman, Zipporah Little and Dawn Seabold saw a Rachel’s Challenge presentation in Charlotte and knew instantly they needed to bring it to their students. So when the school had some extra funds that hadn’t been allocated, they jumped at the opportunity.
“This is going to live with us throughout the day, throughout the week, throughout the year and hopefully though our lives,” said principal Shane Goodwin as he introduced the speaker, Meichelle Gibson, who has been working with Rachel’s Challenge for the last two years.
During her talk, which was broken up with videos about the Columbine shooting and interviews with Rachel’s family and friends, Gibson told the students of the five points about Rachel’s Challenge that should inspire students to live a better life.
Throughout her life, Rachel did things like eat lunch with a new student so they wouldn’t feel left out and befriend a student at her school with special needs who was the target of bullying.
She also wrote a lot in her journals, in her school work and in letters to family, about the power of good character and kindness and the impact one person could have on another, Gibson told the students.
“Right now at your school, there are students going through things that you don’t even know about,” she said. “Everybody has something.”
Gibson told the students about the five parts of Rachel’s Challenge, including speaking with kindness and choosing positive influences. Later in the day, each student got to sign a banner, pledging to try to live up to the challenge.
After the presentation, as students filed out of the auditorium, many of them wiping tears from their eyes, counselor Holeman said she was amazed at how attentive they were.
“I have never heard the student body so enthralled and engaged,” she said to Gibson.
Kimberly and her classmate, Riley Thomas, said they think Rachel’s Challenge is going to make a difference at Sullivan.
“I see a lot of people picking on people and I think that’s going to stop,” Riley said.
Kimberly said she planned on telling all her friends and family about Rachel and her life and untimely death.
“It’s sad that (Rachel’s parents’) kid had to die but I’m glad (Gibson) talks about it because she really touches a lot of people,” Kimberly said.
Of everything they heard on Thursday, Gibson said she hoped the students walked away remembering that they can do a little thing to make a big difference in somebody’s life.