Return to Headlines

Thorne Middle School Students Accept Rachel's Challenge

On Tuesday, Oct. 15 Thorne Middle School Students were introduced to Rachel’s Challenge, the emotional tale of Rachel Joy Scott, whose life was taken in the tragic events of Columbine High School in 1999.

Though she lost her life that fateful day, it’s the point in time where Rachel’s legacy was cemented, and from which a story emerged that has touched the lives of millions of students around the world.

“What we have is a presentation that was started by Rachel’s father, Darrell. And the presentation is not about how Rachel died, although that’s important to the story, but it’s all about how Rachel lived,” said Matt Kendziera, a presenter with the Rachel’s Challenge organization.


Following her death on April 20, 1999, Rachel’s story began to surface as friends, family members and even strangers came forward to recount the way Rachel’s deliberate acts of kindness, displays of courage and integrity inspired positivity in their own lives.

In alignment with Middletown Township Public Schools’ implementation of social and emotional learning methods, students received a grade-appropriate presentation about Rachel’s profound effect, not only on a small Colorado community, but the world. Her impact was accentuated through interviews and letters from those whose lives were changed forever by this young woman.

“It was very powerful and it really impacted me in a way that I could never imagine,” said Thorne student Jessica Heitmann. “I feel very inspired and I hope everyone at my school, when they saw Rachel’s story, felt just as inspired to help make the world a better place.”

The impactful moments shared by Rachel’s family and peers accentuated the ideas recorded in six journals that were later uncovered by her parents.

These journal entries have since been transformed into Rachel’s Challenge, and are now practiced globally by students who wish to create a kinder, stronger and more accepting environment in their school communities.

Rachel’s Challenge

  1. Dream big, believe in yourself and leave a legacy of kindness
  2. Be kind to others, look for the best in them and show compassion
  3. Speak with kindness and choose to be a positive influence
  4. Show appreciation to those you love
  5. Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and others
  6. Be the answer and start your own chain reaction

Following the presentation, more than 100 student leaders from the Thorne community were chosen as ambassadors of the program and named FOR (Friends of Rachel) Club members. The FOR Club is open to all students, and members are tasked with meeting Rachel’s challenge both in and outside of school, while brainstorming ways in which they can share her concepts of love, compassion and acceptance with peers.

One idea focused on using social media to spread positivity with the creation of Kindness Accounts or Compliments Pages, which are used to share “positive gossip” or positive comments about peers. Anonymous students in the Thorne community have already launched this campaign with the creation of the Thorne_MiddleSchool_Kindness and TMS.QuoteOfTheDay Instagram accounts.

For additional information about Kindness Accounts please visit the Rachel’s Challenge Blog.

Other ideas included:

  • Rachel’s Closet: An in-school clothing and goods store in which students can make purchases by earning School Bucks for random acts of kindness and displays of positive behavior. Learn more about the project here.
  • New Student Project: A new school can be an overwhelming scenario for a student. The new student project empowers FOR Club members to introduce themselves to a new student, get to know them at lunch, provide tours of the school and invite them to join an extracurricular club, sports team or activity.
  • Target Letters Project: FOR Club members will target one group (custodians, lunch room staff, security, teachers, etc.) each month and deliver hand-written letters of appreciation to these staff members.

For more information and resources about Rachel’s Challenge please visit the organization’s website. The activities at Thorne Middle School were a pilot program to gauge the positive change effected in that school community. If the program yields positive results, implementation throughout district schools will be considered.