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Students carry on Columbine victim’s message of kindness

By Christina Killion Valdez

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Laura Harney always thought one smile can brighten a person’s day. Little did she know that made her part of a movement.

Earlier this year, the Century High School junior learned about Rachel’s Challenge, a nonprofit organization committed to Rachel Scott’s message of kindness. Scott was killed in the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. on April 20, 1999. Before her death, she wrote about how people can start a chain reaction of kindness. That essay, and Scott’s compassion, inspired an international movement among high schoolers who want to keep the chain going.

"She’s not some hero in a crazy, out-of-this-world sense. She did nice things for people and made a difference," Harney said. "Knowing it was possible made a big difference. She was doing what all people should do."

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To carry on the chain, Harney helped organize a Rachel’s Challenge group at Century this year.

"Anyone can be a part of it," Harney said, noting that there are at least 40 members already. "You’re not expected to do much, just say hello to people and be kind."

One sign of the group’s efforts hangs in the student forum. A decorative paper chain lists kind things about people at the school. The students’ actions keep the chain going.

Among the activities the group sponsored in its first year included talking with students from Kellogg Middle School about opportunities at Century, setting up a welcome plan for new students and writing thank you notes for the school custodians and cafeteria staff.

Last week the group took its efforts a step further by holding a fundraiser for ninth grade physical science teacher Sonia Ellsworth, who was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. To help raise money to send Ellsworth and her family on a cruise, the students sold barbecue lunches on the back lawn of the school.

"It helped bring the school together as much as it raised money for Mrs. Ellsworth," Harney said.

Even before the fundraiser, Ellsworth, who has been out of school since the end of March for surgery and treatments, said she was touched by the support of students and staff.

Keeping the chain of kindness going even with the end of the school year is the next challenge. Plans are to continue Rachel’s Challenge throughout the summer and help other schools get involved, Harney said.

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For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

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Rachel’s Challenge

http://www.rachelschallenge.com/

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