Today is the grim anniversary of 20 years since the mass shooting at Columbine High School, and Darrell Scott, the father of the first shooting victim has since built a team that has reportedly prevented a seven additional school shootings since then and reportedly prevents 150 suicides annually. Scott founded Rachel’s Challenge, a school assembly and training program named after his daughter, Rachel Joy Scott.
“I remember sitting next to my daughter’s grave the day that she was buried, telling my wife I leaned over and I said I wondered what the next 20 years will be like,” Scott said in an interview with Bold TV. “And 20 years have passed now, and we had no idea at that time that we would be reaching millions of young people around the country with Rachel’s Challenge, but you know this week is always a very somber week for our family, and it’s also a somber week for our whole community. But Rachel’s Challenge has grown now to where we reach one to two million students each year, and we’re seeing a lot of difference take place in the lives of young people. We see it over 150 suicides prevented every year, we’ve seen seven school shootings prevented — that we know of — so we’re thankful that Rachel’s life and legacy didn’t end at the Columbine tragedy. It’s continued to this day.”
Scott said through the power of telling Rachel’s story, “we’ve reached 28 million people now in live settings with our 50 presenters, who travel all of the country, around the world. And we share in assemblies for an hour her story, and built into her story are a number of challenges for young people. For example, my son Craig was under the desk in the library the day the shooting took place with two of his close friends. His two buddies were both killed that day. Craig lay there covered in their blood, looking down the barrel of two guns. He didn’t know that his sister had already been killed outside the school. And he watched as they taunted his friend Isaiah with racial slurs, moments before they shot and killed him. And my daughter, in her diary, wrote and she said ‘Don’t judge people by outward appearance. Look into their soul and look into their heart and not at their appearance.’ So our first challenge that we give is based on these stories, and it’s the challenge to overcome prejudice. So we give five challenges throughout the assembly, and then we follow that up with a training, and we we focus a lot on social-emotional learning and growth. And the training then ensures that the momentum from the assembly will take place throughout the whole year, because we create a service club with a hundred students and those students do amazing things. For example in 2010 when the earthquake hit Haiti, we had 7,000 of our Friends of Rachel Club members in Dallas came together to Rockwall, Texas and packaged over a million meals for starving kids in Haiti. And we see a lot of activity like that, so it’s not just a matter of inspiring them, but also giving them application. So we’re reaching the heart, the head and the hands.”
Scott pointed to the historic nature of the Columbine massacre as generating multiple copycats in the ensuing years, but that shootings of others are far eclipsed by student suicides.
“Almost every shooter since Columbine has referred back to Columbine in some way,” Scott said. “Not all of them, but most of them have. And yes, Columbine was the first mass shooting, there’s been a hundred and forty-one students killed in school since my daughter was killed, and Rachel was the first of those 141 to die. But more tragically, even than school shootings, is that for every one student who has been killed in a school shooting, over 800 students have committed suicide. And that’s where we put a lot of our focus, is on helping young people feel self-worth self value, understanding who they are and inspiring them to be the best that they can be so.”
Scott said his daughter’s legacy has reverberated around the globe, turning a tragedy into an opportunity to help students facing adversity.
“Young people and parents all around the world, every day we get emails phone calls letters and we’re always grateful that my daughter’s life continues to touch the hearts,” Scott said. “Rachel was kind compassionate then, but she had a passion for life, and she believed that her life was going to count. She wrote it on the back of her dresser when she was 13 years old she said ‘These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts.’ And that’s happened, and one of our challenges to young people is to believe in yourself to dare to dream to not ever allow anyone to kill your dreams and to move ahead in life with a positive attitude and we see a lot of good come from that.”
Watch the interview above or on our Facebook page.
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.