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Rachel Scott was the first victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. www.rachelschallenge.org

'A very powerful presentation'

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On April 20, 1999, two gunmen at Columbine High School in Colorado blazed a devastating path of destruction that resulted in 13 deaths, not including those of the shooters, and forever changed the lives of countless people. The impact of what would become the deadliest high school shooting in United States history stretched country-wide, and still resonates today.

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On Sept. 2, West Fargo High School students and community members will get the chance to participate in Rachel's Challenge, a symposium focusing on the personal beliefs of the first victim on that fateful day, Rachel Scott. Assembly times for students will be 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., while community members are asked to attend a 5:45 p.m. All take place in the high school theater.

The seminar is "based on this idea of kindness extending to everyone," West Fargo High School Principal Cory Steiner said. "It's not a specific thing about diversity or how to treat people, but more of this idea that - strong character values are derived from a positive mental attitude, integrity and compassion."

As the topics of bullying and violence have become more prevalent in today's society, and as diversity continues to grow at West Fargo Public Schools, Steiner said the time is right to impact the district's students in a positive way that could lasts for months or years to come.

Rachel's Challenge specifically asks students to follow five steps:

• Eliminate prejudice - look for the best in others.

• Dare to dream - set goals and keep a journal.

• Choose positive influences - input determines out.

• Kind words - little acts of kindness.

• Start a chain reaction.

The latter point is based off an essay Rachel Scott wrote before her untimely death, in which she stated: "I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same."

According to the event's website (www.rachelschallenge.org), Darrell Scott and his troupe of speakers have shared Rachel's story with more than 1,000 schools and 5 million people around the world. Darrell Scott has appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live, the Today Show, and numerous other programs. He also has addressed the United States Congress, and has met with the president on several occasions to discuss issues of school violence.

Even television and movie karate icon Chuck Norris dedicated his autobiography to Rachel Scott's memory.

Rachel's Challenge will show audience members video and audio footage of Rachel's life and the Columbine shooting during the one-hour presentation. Afterward, an interaction 90-minute training session involving both adult and student leaders - approximately 50-75 by Steiner's estimates - will show them "how to sustain momentum created by the assembly," the website said.

Steiner said he first heard about Rachel's challenge through district superintendent David Flowers, who reported it as "a very powerful presentation."

"It has such a good value," Steiner said.

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