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The ice and bitter cold temperatures didnât stop a slew of students and parents from attending the âRachelâs Challengeâ presentation at Exeter-West Greenwich Senior High School last Thursday night. The third presentation of the day featured speaker Dave Gamache, who has traveled from school to school spreading the message of âRachelâs Challengeâ for the past four years.The presentation was made possible through the efforts of the Domestic Violence Research Center and the Friendship Fund.
âThis is a very, very special day,â E-WG Superintendent Thomas Geismar told the packed auditorium. âRachelâs Challenge, in my opinion, is not just about the kids, itâs about all of us â itâs about grownups, too. Itâs about how weâre going to treat each other, how we behave toward each other and how we each do our bit to make the world a better place.â
Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first victim of the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School shootings, was honored in an hour-long presentation which featured a compelling essay written shortly before her death.
âMy Ethics and My Code of Life,â discovered one week after she died, challenged readers to start a âchain reactionâ of kindness and compassion towards others. Her theory was simple: if one person will go out of their way to show kindness and compassion, it would start a chain reaction of the same.
âI see it as a gift more than a story, and itâs my honor to be able to give that gift to you,â Gamache said. âIâm here to honor the way she chose to live, and the impact her life continues to have and the legacy she left behind. I think as you hear her story, youâre going to realize you may have a lot more power inside of you than you ever imagined to impact other peopleâs lives every day.â
The compelling presentation video not only featured Rachelâs life and how she chose to live it but also the lives of the people she touched, which included her family and friends.
âShe started a chain reaction of love and was kind to others and because of that, sheâs changed the world,â Rachelâs brother Craig said in the presentation video.
Rachel challenged readers to look for the best in others, to dare to dream, to choose positive influences, to choose kind words, and to start a chain reaction.
âToday we challenge the students and faculty to only look for the best, and if the best is different, to celebrate those differences, because thatâs what makes us great,â Gamache said.
One of the biggest influences on Rachel was Anne Frank, whose diary was found on Rachelâs bedside table the day she died. Incredibly, Rachel had a premonition that she would die young, as Anne Frank did, but that her life would impact the world, just as Anne Frankâs life did.
âBoth of them put a big emphasis on kindess,â Rachelâs older sister said in the video. âAnne Frank said, âYou can always give something, even if itâs only kindness,â and Rachel said, âPeople will never know how far a little kindess can go.â Anne Frank and Rachel both set high goals and ideals for their lives.â Gamache stated that both Anne Frank and Rachel had world-changing dreams that they wanted to accomplish.
âAnne wrote, âItâs a wonder I havenât abandonded all my ideals; they seem so absurd and impractical,â and Rachel wrote, âMy codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached.ââ Gamache went on to say that over the past two school years, 301 students have been impacted in a special way after a speaker from Rachelâs Challenge left their school.
âThey sent an email saying, âWhen your speaker showed up today I was planning on killing myself. But I found hope in Rachelâs story and I made some new friends today, and Iâm going to stick around.â
âHer death has not been in vain.â
Both parents and students alike were profoundly affected by the presentation. Even Gamache at times had tears in his eyes as he spoke.
âI think every school should see this,â said parent Pat Drum.
Renee Warilaâs daughter, who had been to an earlier presentation in the school day, looked up the Rachelâs Challenge Facebook page.
âShe said, âMom, we gotta go,ââ Warila said.
âIt was very moving; a lot of my friends were crying,â student Rayna Gagnon said.
âI thought it was really moving,â said student Kelsey Gilligan. âIt definitely makes me think twice about everything and what I would say.â
âThis event has brought our community together on every level,â said a teary-eyed school counselor Catherine Murray. âEveryone has been touched.â
For more information on Rachelâs Challenge, visit www.rachelschallenge.org.