WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Over the next week and a half, a group inspired by the actions of a beloved Columbine student will speak with dozens of schools here in Vigo County.
We have reported on Rachel’s Challenge, which celebrates the legacy of Rachel Scott, who was killed during the shooting at Columbine in 1999. Multiple speakers with the organization are making the rounds in Vigo County to spread her message of the long-lasting impact of kindness and compassion for young people as part of VCSC’s effort to combat higher expulsion and suspension rates seen in the past few years.
On Wednesday, the group met with community members in the library at West Vigo High School– where presenter Neil McIntyre said they wanted to let as many people know as possible what they are about.
“We’re not an anti-bullying program, we’re pro-kindness and pro-compassion. A lot of times it’s those kids showing bully behavior, that need more kindness and need more compassion, they need someone to reach out and impact their lives,” he said.
His presentation on Wednesday afternoon was much heavier than the ones that will be given to younger audiences. In elementary schools, they use music and focus on positivity and working with others, but with older groups, they get more into the details surrounding Scott’s death.
“Being a Colorado person myself, I knew people that were there at the school that day,” he said. “Some of my friend’s younger brother and sisters, and it was really impactful for me, the first time, to find out some of the ugly truths of why it happened and how it happened.”
He said he feels this is important– especially with the way social media can harm teenagers today.
“This era right now, there is so much harm going on, there is so much teen suicide. Since social media became a big thing back in 2012, there has been a skyrocketing number of kids harming themselves, depression, suicide,” he said.
That has made their mission even more important– and McIntyre said it makes it more special when kids express how these presentations have helped. He said they have gotten letters over the years from students who say this helped them through their darkest times– some, even contemplating death by suicide.
“Especially when someone’s so young, and they have their whole life ahead of them, and we always try to remind kids that it’s tough sometimes growing up,” he said. “With so much pressure on kids to achieve and succeed. I think it’s wonderful to think they can find hope.”
There will be another presentation at Honey Creek Middle School for parents and students on Thursday at 6:30. McIntyre added there will be a program for younger children at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum this Saturday.