More than a thousand students from Columbine High School will embark on service projects throughout the community on April 20 for the third annual Day of Service.
“We wanted to take such a tragic day and try to turn it into something positive,” Scott Christy, Columbine’s principal, said. “It’s a great way to honor the day, honor the victims.”
In the aftermath of the April 20, 1999 tragedy, community members leaned on one another for hope and strength and were overwhelmed with an outpouring of kindness and support from people across the world.
“It’s hard to articulate in words,” Christy said.
“You kind of have to feel it. A lot of schools or organizations will say they’re a family, but I think at Columbine, it means something different. There is a bond that we have with each other and with our school. I think there is a pride, a love for school that I think is very difficult to replicate anywhere else.”
Christy calls it the “Columbine Spirit” — something that bonds the school together.
Currently Columbine High has 13 teachers who were on staff in 1999 and five teachers who were students at Columbine that year. Several long-standing teachers recently retired.
Christy said educators like Frank DeAngelis, former principal, and the teachers who stuck with the school after the tragedy went through difficult times and should be recognized for their heroic actions.
“To stick with something like this and make it into what it is today is truly heroic,” he said. “It’s a model of resiliency.”
Although current students were not yet born when the tragedy struck, it is something that lingers within the culture of the school.
“The kids are aware,” Christy said. “But they don’t come here thinking this horrible thing happened. This is their home.”
Christy said the story of Columbine High is one of strength, resilience, community and family.
Christy said he hopes other schools and organizations who have experienced mass shootings and tragedy can look at Columbine and see that they can come back strong if they work as a community.
The Day of Service is one way Columbine High is continuing that strength.
For the first 17 years after the tragedy, school was not held on April 20. Classes are still not held on that day, but for the past two years, the Day of Service has been.
Service projects vary from sprucing up the garden at the local elementary school to cleaning up nearby Clement Park and local trails. The day is centered on remembering the lives lost, reflecting on the lives forever changed and recommitting to the power of service in the community.
While projects are limited to Columbine High students and teachers, the school encourages the community and people across the world to participate in their own service projects on April 20.
It’s a challenge to make a recommitment — to kindness, to community, to serving others.
“Columbine is a symbol of resiliency," Christy said.
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