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Columbine victim’s tale used to encourage good life choices

Students gathered around the brightly adorned cross in theBrookhaven High School gym Monday morning, putting notes, jewelry,keychains and other personal effects on it as a tribute to RachelScott, whose legacy at Columbine High School is one that stillimpacts people across the country today.

One girl knelt at the foot of the cross writing a note toRachel. A quiet young man draped his belt over the cross anddisappeared into the crowd.

BHS junior LaKenya Kelly attached a heart-shaped key chain toone of the many other items that hung from the cross, which sat onthe Columbine campus at one time to memorialize Rachel and theother students killed in the April 20, 1999 massacre.

Through a program called Life Choices, this week students atarea schools are being encouraged to remember that like Rachel andher killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, choices they make canaffect them not only in the present, but also in the future.

“We believe you guys can change the world,” presenter RonnyMacGyver told BHS students. “It’s OK to open your hearts tochange.”

Scott was the first person killed during the attacks onColumbine High School in Columbine, Co. Life Choices is a groupthat makes presentations about the impact of decisions studentsmake now can affect them throughout their lives.

Several video presentations about Scott’s life during theprogram indicated that Rachel had died for her faith in Christ. Aboy who was with her when she was killed told her family that evenin her final moments when her killer said, “Do you still believe inGod, Rachel?” she replied, “You know that I do.”

“She had a lot of dreams and passion, and she made a differencein people’s lives,” said her brother Craig in one clip. “And theykilled her.”

MacGyver asked students to look at the choices they make and thetime they’re given on earth.

“What are you doing with your life, your one turn on earth?” hesaid. “You only get one time around, and lives are even changedtoday because of what happened at Columbine.”

Sarah Mallett, another presenter, reminded the audience thatsometimes the world is too focused on outward appearance.

“The problem we have in America is a heart problem,” she said.”And you need to remember that it’s what’s on the inside of youthat makes you valuable.”

She went on to tell the students that everyone is important,regardless of what their peers try to tell them.

“You are so valuable and so important, and you’re supposed to behere exactly now,” she said. “I’m sorry if people haven’t saidthose truths to you.”

Finally, Mallett and MacGyver reminded the students that juststanding for what they believe in is a choice that can changelives.

“Rachel Scott was just a girl, just like any other girl tryingto find her place in the world,” said MacGyver, talking about whenScott accepted Christ at age 12. “This was a decision she waswilling to die for, and she eventually did.”

Brookhaven School Board President Karen Braden said the programis one that she feels can make a real difference to young peopletoday.

“As a parent and school board president, it’s scary becausethey’re literally making choices determining their future,” shesaid. “What they decide today can set them on a path to success orcan be disastrous and even ruin their lives and lives ofothers.”

Shannon Clark and Carolyn Stevens were also instrumental inbringing the group to Brookhaven. Clark said the program wasstarted by family members of Scott before her death.

“Her aunt and uncle started a program going around to schoolsand talking about the pressure of being a teen, and then afterColumbine, the program changed focus and got bigger,” Clarksaid.

Braden said that once they had enough information on the LifeChoices program, supporters began trying to raise the money tobring them to Brookhaven.

“We’re so grateful to the people who donated for it,” she said.”We’ve offered it to every school in the county. All but oneaccepted and the one who didn’t had already had them thisyear.”

It was a surprise and a joy, Clark said, how fast they were ableto raise the money. She said in her mind, the support speaksvolumes about the priorities of area parents and communitymembers.

“The neatest thing about it – and it just shows how Brookhavenis – we were hoping we could do this back in September or October,”she said. “We booked them, and after Christmas we still didn’t havethe money to bring them here, but when we started asking fordonations, people gave the money so quickly. It’s neat that we havesuch a giving community that will do that.”

Braden said it also helps the kids to hear from adults they seeas “cooler” than their parents and teachers.

“The speakers are way cooler than if it was Mom and Dad saying,’Make a wise decision,'” Braden said. “And it’s so important thatwe reach the kids so they understand there are consequences totheir actions.”

Life Choices presenters also take time to eat lunch and spendtime at the schools so if students have things they want to talkabout, they are available. In addition, some schools on rareoccasions, receive a visit from Rachel Scott’s mother andbrother.

Life Choices presented to Brookhaven High School Monday morning,and were at Alexander Junior High School Tuesday morning as well.Wednesday morning, they will be at First Baptist Church for countyschools at 9:15 a.m. and on Thursday, Life Choices will present toBrookhaven Academy at 10.

They will also present at the Wednesday night service at FirstBaptist Church at 6:30 p.m.. The event will be open to thepublic.