Nearly 1,200 students at Kyrene Middle School in Tempe gathered last week, challenged to start a “chain reaction” of kindness to others.

Part of the “Rachel’s Challenge” launch in the Kyrene School District, the students learn through a series of programs to combat bullying and prejudice with simple acts of kindness.

The organization was started in memory of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim in the Columbine High School shooting of 1999 in Colorado, which took the lives of 12 students, one teacher, and the two student shooters.

District governing board member Ross Robb said once he heard of the challenge and the story behind it, he knew it needed to be in Kyrene.

“It just had a huge impact on me,” said Robb, who mentioned the loss of his own child 17 years ago.

Through Tempe Diablos and the Kyrene Foundation, Rachel’s Challenge will start hitting two of Ahwatukee’s middle schools next month. By the first of the year, every middle school in the district should have the program, Robb added.

Altadeña and Akimel A-al will host similar assemblies Nov. 27 and 29, with Centennial’s assembly in mid-January.

“Change is very incremental,” Robb said. “You hope that a lot of these kids will embrace it, and their friends would embrace it, too.”

During the assembly, students learned about Scott’s life, video testimonies from friends and family about Scott’s heart for others, and journal entries Scott wrote before her death.

In an essay for school Scott wrote a few months before the shooting, she wrote about her ethics in life and passion to see the world changed one person at a time.

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same,” Scott’s essay said. “People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

To learn more about Rachel’s Challenge, visit To find out more about the programs coming to Ahwatukee, visit


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