School challenges students to practice compassion

Shane Hamman, a former Olympic weight lifter and member of Rachel’s Challenge, speaks to audience members at Basehor-Linwood High School Monday night. Hamman said that Rachel Scott, the first person killed at Columbine High School, went out of her way to help others. Enlarge photo

April 2, 2009

Basehor-Linwood students and community members were faced with a challenge on Monday. The Basehor-Linwood High School Student Council invited a member of the Rachel’s Challenge organization to visit the high school and urge the audience to start a chain reaction of compassion.

Rachel’s Challenge is the largest school assembly program in the nation, and members of the program travel from state to state, telling the story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first person killed in the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.

“We were really impacted as a whole by what we saw,” student council member Lucas Turner said. “Afterward, we all signed a banner to recognize that we had accepted Rachel’s Challenge.”

Former Olympic weight lifter Shane Hamman was Monday’s speaker, and he gave students, parents and community members some information about the shootings and about Rachel.

Hamman said Rachel went out of her way to help people. She reached out to those who were hard to reach. She sat with new students at lunch, defended those who were considered different and carried with her a theory that one person’s kindness could ripple out to many. Rachel wanted to start a chain reaction of compassion.

“I was so affected by this girl’s life,” Hamman said. “When I heard (Rachel’s dad) speak, I knew I wanted to be part of this cause.”

Hamman had five challenges he said he wanted everyone in the audience to try to do. Each person, he said, was capable of completing these tasks.

“I’m not here to challenge you guys to do things you can’t do,” he said. “These are small things, and they will make a big difference in your life and in other people’s lives.”

The first challenge was to look for the best in people. Hamman said Rachel was always reaching out to people, trying to get to know them.

“Rachel said that you should give someone three chances to get to know them,” Hamman said. “You can’t judge people when you first meet them or see them, and you have to look for the best qualities in everyone. If you’re looking for the best, you will find it.”

Secondly, Hamman told the audience to dare to dream. Dreams are important, he said, and they should be put on paper.

“Whenever you have goals, write them down,” he said. “And don’t be afraid to write big stuff. Don’t be afraid to dream big because you just never know what can happen.”

Hamman’s third challenge was to choose positive influences. The Columbine shooters were greatly influenced by violent movies and violent people, Hamman said. He advised everyone to pick positive role models and select television programs that had peaceful messages.

Next Hamman said kind words and small acts of kindness made a huge difference, and he asked everyone to show some compassion for others.

“Say ‘hi’ to someone new at school, ask someone how their day is going,” he said. “It’s so easy, but it might change someone’s mood or even change their life.”

At the end of the program, Hamman had a fifth and final challenge for all those sitting in the bleachers. He told them to go out and start their own chain reactions.

“Think of four or five people who you love or who mean a lot to you,” he said to the audience. “Now go tell those people in the next few days how you feel about them. Let them know how much they mean to you and how much they matter. Accept this challenge, and start a chain reaction in your personal life.”

For more information about Rachel Scott or Rachel’s Challenge, visit

Originally published at: