Students across the country returned to school Thursday morning after yet another deadly school shooting. While many districts relied on an increased police presence to make parents and students feel safe, some relied on the kindness preached by a victim of the Columbine shooting that happened nearly 20 years ago.
Rachel's Challenge was founded by Rachel Joy Scott's father when he found his 17-year-old daughter's journals after her death. In them, she wrote of kindness and compassion, and the chain reaction those ideals can spark.
Her words have now been shared with 25 million people, including students at more than 1,000 schools across the country.
"You can look at somebody's face and tell whether they're hurting, they're happy, they're sad. And sometimes just pointing at them or saying, 'Are you OK?' That kind of thing. That's what Rachel's Challenge is about, and about bringing good spirit and good kindness to everything we touch," said Wylie High School principal Virdie Montgomery.
Montgomery brought Rachel's Challenge to the school 12 years ago. He believes it's responsible for a complete climate shift within school walls.
"Our building is full of 'Rachels.' You're doing things that sound like little things at the time, but they have impact on the world," Montgomery said.
With 2,400 students at Wylie, senior Easton Kerr says a climate of kindness gives everyone a place to belong.
"Our student core has done a lot to make the school feel smaller," Kerr said.
Kerr pointed to a day last week when the student body president rallied a group of friends to change their lunch plans to sit with a fellow student who was sitting alone.
Senior Kirby Thompson said she was emotionally impacted the first time she heard Rachel Joy Scott's story, feeling a connection to a girl her age who tragically lost her life.
"She really wanted every person to feel known and important and like they matter," Thompson said.
While she and her friends started taking turns, sending encouraging notes to each other to create their own chain reaction of kindness, she says the good deeds are often random.
"I've seen it first hand, you know. Like little notes in the girls' bathroom of 'Don't worry, you look great today,' or 'Don't worry, you look beautiful,'" Thompson said.
The good deeds have even led to a paper chain in which a link is added for each kind action. The hope is it will stretch the length of the school by year's end.
"I don't know that we can completely prevent things like that, but it really helps to have a solid community, because people feel like they matter they feel involved," Thompson said.
Rachel's Challenge is in several schools across North Texas.