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Fairland High School students ready for Rachel's Challenge

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

PROCTORVILLE, Ohio -- Fairland High School is described by many as a welcoming and friendly school, but students and staff realized Thursday that they can do even more.

That was the message from Bill Sanders, a national speaker for Rachel's Challenge. The organization was designed to encourage the treatment of others with kindness and respect, which was how Rachel Joy Scott lived before she became one of 13 victims in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Sanders said everything that has happened since points back to her journals and drawings, which describe a teenager who not only thought she was going to die young but also felt she would be a catalyst for change. In a video, Scott's art teacher recalled how in the hours before the shooting, Scott told her she felt she would be an instrument of change and inspiration.

The presentation left many students and staff in tears, including senior class president B.J. Adkins. He sat through both the middle and high school presentations, taking time in between to text his 22-year-old sister to apologize and tell her he loved her.

It was part of Sanders' message to be brave enough to love and care for others, and not think that there will always be another day.

"I want our school to be a better place," said Adkins, who was one of 100 middle and high school students to also go through an afternoon training with Sanders to help launch the Friends of Rachel program in Fairland's schools. "We have a lot of emotional people here, and I feel like it hit them."

Sanders reported that more than 50 students came up to him after the presentations to tell him Thursday was their day to change and be more like Rachel.

The presentation was so moving that principal Chad Belville allowed students to use their cellphones at lunch to text a message to someone who was on their heart. And many took advantage of that to text parents, relatives and friends to apologize or just remind them of how much they mean in their life.

Sophomore Kristin McClendon got emotional as she described the message she sent her mom to tell say she loved her and was thankful for all he does for. And to say she was sorry for driving her crazy.

Freshman Torri Thompson said she sent a message to a friend to say thank-you for being there for her and apologizing for not always doing the same for him.

Even Belville wore his emotions on his sleeves when he told the students he loved them and considers his role as like being a father to them.

"I'm up to about 800 sons and daughters," Belville said. "I love you guys. I think of you as my own kids."

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