Mike Hoss / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- When Darrell Scott speaks, it’s from the heart.
“We felt compassion for you when Katrina hit. The whole world watched on television and you felt compassion for us as you watched the Columbine tragedy unfold,” Darrell said.
Darrell's 17-year-old daughter Rachel was the first student killed in the tragic Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, nearly 12 years ago.
Reading Rachel's diary and essays in the heart-wrenching days that followed opened Darrell's eyes further to the deep, introspective and giving daughter he'd always known.
“And Rachel said people will never know how far a little kindness can go. Rachel didn't just write about kindness. She had a reputation at her school for practicing kindness.”
Based on those writings and Rachel’s desire to impact the world with a chain reaction of kindness and compassion, Rachel's Challenge was born. Darrell now travels the world, talking to kids from elementary schools to colleges about Rachel’s ideas and values.
“Her story had a real impact on people, so we geared it towards the educational arena, and realize that young people especially gravitate to her story, because she was one of them.”
But Rachel's Challenge is more than a school assembly program. It’s a long-term campaign to stop teen suicides and bullying by promoting a pay-it-forward mentality of kindness.
The schools who join in set up service clubs that work on positive projects for the school and community.
With more than 1200 Rachel’s Challenge service clubs across the world, the success stories are there.
“And it changes the climate,” Darrell said. “Just instantly the climate is changed in a school.”
For the business leaders and educators who saw today's presentation, a successful program like Rachel’s Challenge would be an ideal situation.
“It's incredible,” said Emile Foster of Homedale Elementary School. “I think it’s just the kind of inspiration we need.”
“I think we have a bunch of kids that do that already, in our schools and I think that recommitment from them, the affirmation from them that they're doing the right thing and it can spread, just like it did in Rachel's situation,” said St. Tammany Parish Public Schools Superintendent Trey Folse.
And for Darrell, a Louisiana native, it’s a program he knows Rachel would be proud of.
“I wish that she could be in the room seeing the impact of her life on others.”
Darrell says the group has received more than 450 emails and letters from kids who said Rachel's Challenge kept them from committing suicide.
WWLTV will be featuring local Rachel’s Challenge schools and students in the future.