Students accept 'Rachel's Challenge'

As part of the presentation, students were asked to hug those around them with whom they may not normally interact.

Mille Lacs County Times

“It touched me like — bam — it hit me right here,” said Milaca eighth-grader Marrisa Ziegler, pointing to her heart.

Ziegler was referring to a video that was shown to about 100 Milaca High School students last Thursday about the story of Rachel Scott, the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.

The video offered powerful footage of the Columbine tragedy, in which 12 students and one teacher were killed, and left its impression on the students in the audience. After viewing the video, they were invited to share what they felt about the images they saw. Many gave emotional responses, opening up about their own difficulties with depression, bullying and fitting in.

Junior Mitch DeHaan talked about his experiences moving from a small, private school to Milaca and the adjustments that required.

“I want you guys to know if you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you,” he told his fellow classmates. “I love talking to people.”

Ninth-grader Chelsie Othoudt also chose to share her thoughts on the video.

“The thing about Rachel’s Challenge is seeing everyone walk out crying — that Milaca can change,” she said. Othoudt said her own younger brother and sister have been bullied in school and wants to leave a better legacy for them. “I want this to be a place where they can be safe and accepted.”

Rachel’s Challenge is a national organization devoted to affecting positive change in school districts and communities. The mission is to create a “chain reaction of kindness” — an ideal Rachel wrote about once in an English essay.

For the full story, see the Thursday, Jan. 26 print edition of the Times.