It’s been almost ten years since the Columbine Tragedy that changed so many people’s lives. I was changed and forever impacted from this day that happened April 20th, 1999. I lived in Toronto, Canada; and Bob Proctor has just started his Youth Mentor International Program, and was working with the twelve original teens when we heard the horrible news of this tragedy. The teens Bob was mentoring decided to create their YMI pins in Columbine colors and honored those who lost their life on this day. They took the news of this day very seriously, and set out to be role models in their own high school environments.
As a former educator, I would say that this day affected me and continues to be the reason why I take such an interest in working with teens and self-esteem. Could Columbine have been prevented? I am not sure. But I do know that there are more programs out there than ever before the raise awareness to prevent school violence and I want to continue this message.
Colorado has a Safe2Tell anonymous tip line that covers any potential threat to safety. The program also includes anonymous and encrypted Web-tipping, says Susan Payne, special agent in charge of school safety and homeland security for the state. In the past 4½ years, the line has prevented 28 planned school attacks, she says. In one incident, there were 33 weapons found. About two-thirds of the calls come from kids, Payne says.
There is also the “Rachel’s Challenge” program that has a mission is to reach as many people as possible with the message of kindness and compassion. Rachel Scott was the first person killed at the Columbine tragedy. Her acts of kindness and compassion coupled with the contents of her six diaries have become the foundation for one of the most life-changing school programs in America.
Awareness if always going to be the key to helping educators prevent school violence, but there are some steps that we can take as citizens as well. Encourage open communication with your teens and be aware of red flags that you might see that should be looked at closer. Always be aware, alert and perhaps with time and persistence, we can all make a difference and be inspired to help make this world a better place.