LAYTON — “If one person goes out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction.”
These words by Rachel Scott, the first victim in the Columbine High School disaster, were the theme for the seventh annual Davis Youth Summit held Saturday at Northridge High School.
Davis County youths between the ages of 13 and 18 were invited to attend the conference to learn prevention, safety and self-help skills as well as get opportunities to serve others.
The conference was organized by Davis Behavioral Health and the Communities That Care programs of Layton and Bountiful.
“We want (the teens) to walk away with some personal skills to enrich their lives,” said Karlene Kidman, Layton Community That Cares coordinator. “We want to teach them and give them prevention skills.”
Keynote speaker Dave Knoche, a friend of Rachel Scott’s brother, spoke as a representative for Rachel’s Challenge, an organization working to share the teen’s life’s message with the world.
After Rachel died, her family found six diaries and a school essay she had written. In them, they found Rachel’s challenge to herself: to be a catalyst for kindness and compassion in the lives of those she encountered.
“I challenge you to get rid of your prejudice and hatred against anyone different,” Knoche said to the youths.
He said he used to judge people by their appearance. He would observe the way someone dressed, the style of their hair or the expression on their face and immediately make a judgment about that person.
He changed his approach because of Rachel, who wrote about her code for life in a school essay and explained that she would give a person at least three encounters before passing judgment.
“Look hard enough, and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow,” she wrote.
Rachel lived by a creed to search out those in need and help them. Her actions were simple, such as giving someone a high five or a smile in the hall.
After her death, many peers came forward to say that her small actions made a big difference in their lives.
Sisters Sierra and Avalon LeBaron said they attended the Davis Youth Summit to learn about service projects and because their older sister recommended it.
After hearing the Rachel’s Challenge presentation, Avalon, 15, was fighting tears.
“I think about all the people that sit alone at lunchtime, and I just want to go sit with them now,” she said.
“It makes me want to reach out of my comfort zone, and it makes me want to find those who need help,” said Sierra, 17. “We were thinking about not coming, but it was so worth it.”
Teens could choose to attend any of the 16 breakout sessions covering topics from Internet safety and drunken driving to suicide prevention and stress management.
The conference ended with eight service projects. Kids made fleece blankets for Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, yarn dolls and friendship bracelets for the Family Connection Center and boxes for the Utah Food Bank, among several other projects.
Miranda Curtis, 15, said she attended the summit because her mom encouraged her to do so. However, she said the experience has changed her life.
“It has changed my attitude of kindness.”