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      Learning about compassion, Chittenango up to 'Rachel's Challenge'

      Chittenango High School students and teachers accepted "Rachel's Challenge" on Wednesday, a day of presentations and videos inspired by Rachel Joy Scott, the first person killed in the 1999 Columbine Massacre, when two high school seniors killed 13 people at Columbine High School.

      The entire Chittenango district took part in different variations of "Rachel's Challenge", all inspired by Rachel's words of compassion in letters she left behind.

      "It was pretty in depth," Chittenango Superintendent of Schools Mike Schiedo says. "Messages and notes about a chain reaction of kindness and compassion throughout the world, and how she at one point in her life would touch millions of hearts."

      Not normally given a venue to branch out and speak from their hearts, students spoke freely about their lives, opening up to a captive audience of their peers, striking their emotions as well.

      "So many emotions," Gabrielle Sgroi, a freshman at Chittenango, says. "There was happy and then sad, inspiring as well, it was amazing."

      The presentations gave students from different backgrounds a reason to listen to each other, creating a sense of community in a place normally filled with cliques and bullying.

      "You can tell it made a big impact on people," Dan Brazeau, a sophomore, says. "As a tough strong guy, I almost cried today in the assembly, it just changed my heart."