ROCK HILL, S.C. -- This week, a group of busy high school students in Rock Hill will hear a presentation their teachers hope will stop them in their tracks. They’ll hear it thanks to a local business that decided investing in spreading kindness and compassion in the classroom is money very well spent.
“When the news happened, it was like any other big day in America. You know where you are. It is a life-changing event,” said Brian Stewart of the Columbine High School massacre, on April 20, 1999.
Now a father of four, Stewart worries about his own children. He worries when they tell him they’re being picked on at school.
“My concerns are that you can’t be there every day for your kids’ lives,” he said.
The first victim at Columbine, Rachel Scott wanted to spread compassion. She wrote about starting a chain reaction of kindness and to make outcasts feel included. Her parents later found those writings and Rachel’s Challenge was born.
“You kind of hope it spreads like wildfire. You hope that one person hears it and it moves on and I think that is what Rachel’s Challenge is all about,” he said of the organization started by Rachel Scott’s parents.
Stewart is the General Manager of Harrelson Nissan in Rock Hill. He says the Harrelson family recently decided to sponsor Rachel’s Challenge at nearby Northwestern High School because the program struck a chord.
“We’re not looking for any large publicity out of this. We just thought it was a great idea to make a difference in one school and we’re hoping that other local businesses in the Rock Hill area and Fort Mill area get involved,” he said. Even though it is a non-profit, there are still costs to bring Rachel’s message to schools across the country.
Stewart has heard about the presentations.
“There is not a dry eye in the house and it really makes a difference to maybe the bully in the school comes to the child that they’ve maybe been picking on and apologizes. And that it really hits home with the kids and is really life changing,” he described.
He can’t wait to see the impact at Northwestern and on his own 11- and 13-year-old daughters who attend school in Tega Cay.
“We’re going to take them out of school that day and bring them down and I think it is very important for them to listen to the message and I hope it strikes a chord with them,” he said.
The Northwestern High School event is Wednesday, November 9. NewsChannel 36 will be there to show you the reaction from students and staff.