Pocahontas County Students Hear About Rachel’s Challenge
Marlinton, WV – One person’s life can affect millions and out of great tragedy can come everlasting hope. That could be a corollary to the short, but meaningful life of Rachel Joy Scott, the first student to die in the Columbine school massacre in April 1999, because out of that great tragedy came Rachel’s Challenge, a movement that has reached millions of students, educators and parents around the world.
Cody Hodges, a former college and professional football player, spoke to Pocahontas County students about Rachel’s Challenge on April 24th. Students saw the program during class time with an additional presentation for parents that night.
“Had an amazing day; every student pre-K through 12th grade heard this presentation today, so every student in the county has now heard this,” says Hodges. “Rachel’s Challenge did come out of the worst school shooting to ever take place in our country. The first person to lose their life that day was Rachel Scott; she was a junior in high school, she was 17 years old, she was simply eating her lunch outside with a friend when the two gunmen approached the school and killed her.”
Her killers were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and in addition to Rachel, they also took the lives of 11 other students and one teacher. Rachel was the middle of five children and her brother Craig, also at the school during the shooting, witnessed two of friends die. Her father and step mother started Rachel’s Challenge over 10 years ago after finding an essay written by Rachel for an English class. Titled My Ethics, My Code of Life’, in it Rachel challenged the reader to start what she called a chain reaction of kindness. Hodges says the essay was written just six weeks before she died.
The video portion of the presentation is harrowing, juxtaposing video images of police swat teams surrounding the school and anxious parents waiting to hear about their children with 9-1-1 tapes of teachers and students inside the school. Like so many others around the world, Cody Hodges has been deeply affected by what happened at Columbine.
“I’m from Texas, I was born there, I live there now; I never knew Rachel Scott, I was never a student at Columbine,” he says. “But when I was in college, I heard Rachel’s dad speak and I heard him share this story about his daughter. And since that time I’ve gotten to know her brother Craig really well.”
“Our presentation tonight, there are five challenges I’m going to give you; and these challenges come from the code of ethics that Rachel wrote and some of her other writings. But the first challenge also comes from her brother Craig; he said Cody I don’t care where you go, wherever you speak, encourage people to eliminate prejudice. He said I saw prejudice at it’s very worst. He said one of my best friends died because of the color of his skin.”
The five challenges in Rachel’s Challenge are as follows:
Look For the Best In Others
Choose Positive Influences
Speak With Kindness
Start Your Own Chain Reaction
“This whole thing came about because of one girl,” says Hodges. “Was she perfect; no she wasn’t perfect, but she had a heart for people. And because of that, her story, the story of Rachel Scott has been told to millions and millions of people.”
“Every school that we go to, we start a Friends of Rachel [FOR] club and I met with roughly 80 to 100 students today, some from both middle schools and some from the high school. The purpose of this group is for this to not be a one day message; that group is going to start meeting on a regular basis on every campus, to be a group of students that actually goes out and promotes being kind.”
Hodge says each school also received a “I Accept Rachel’s Challenge” banner. Students, teachers, parents and community members are all encouraged to sign on to accept the challenge for themselves.