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Columbine tragedy inspires at Milwaukie assembly

Rachel's Challenge based on writings of student killed during Columbine massacre
by: Matthew Graham, Alysha White, left, and Brittany Johnson helped bring Rachel’s Challenge to Milwaukie High School.

Milwaukie High School students received a challenge last week. A challenge of kindness, love and personal aspiration. A challenge that many accepted eagerly.

Rachel Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 when two fellow students went on a killing spree. Two weeks prior to her death, Scott wrote an essay challenging others to be kind to one another. She said that by being nice to even one other person, people could spark a 'chain reaction' that would change the world.

Her family, after finding that essay and other writings by Rachel, began spreading her message, which made its way to Milwaukie last week.

Two Milwaukie students, Alysha White and Brittany Johnson, spent a great deal of their senior year spreading the word about the program and raising the funds to bring it to Milwaukie after friends of theirs at Rex Putnam High School saw the presentation last year.

They said that, like any high school environment, Milwaukie has cliques and those who feel marginalized, and they want to help put a stop to it.

'People are just really judgmental, but I think you get that with every group of kids this age,' White said. 'You get treated differently if you're different and I don't think it's OK at all.'

The Rachel's Challenge presentation focused a lot on Scott's brother, Craig. On the day of the shooting Craig was huddled in the library with his two best friends, one of whom was one of the only black students at the school. The gunmen shot his friends point blank, and Craig said the last thing his friend Isaiah heard in his life were racial slurs.

'This has really inspired me,' said Milwaukie student Zoe Brooks. 'If we could eliminate prejudice and just continue with our lives without that hate, like Rachel was trying to do, the world would be a lot better place.'

Milwaukie student Aly Braun said she was inspired by Craig Scott, who eventually found the ability to forgive the shooters and who is now working toward a career in filmmaking.

'When they were talking about her brother lost two friends … I really think if I lost two of my friends it would totally rip me apart, and I'm really impressed with how Craig has accepted it.'

Braun, Brooks and about 30 other students were picked by White and Johnson and teachers to join a team that will seek to continue the challenge and keep that caring spirit going not just for a week or two, but for the rest of the school year and beyond.

They will help by making sure new students feel comfortable and welcome, will write 'target notes' expressing appreciation, create an 'atmosphere of kindness' with posters and banners and will do outreach programs.

Amy Busch, assistant principal at Milwaukie, also said the school would try to create a class for incoming freshmen through which they could instill some of Rachel's message and keep the challenge going with new classes.