What: Rachel’s Challenge
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Glenn Miller Ballroom, UMC
U niversity of Colorado student Olivia Leyshock entered Columbine High School as a freshman in 2008, more than eight years after two seniors went on a rampage, killing 13 people.
During her time at Columbine, Leyshock said she was touched by the tragedy that still haunted survivors of the shooting and the surrounding community, including family and friends of the victims.
“Even though I wasn’t there when it happened, we were all still affected by it,” Leyshock said. “When a community is so strongly touched by something like this, it lingers, and I was privileged to share that with them while I was there.”
As a high school sophomore, Leyshock joined Day Without Hate, an organization started by a Colorado high school teacher following the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 that aims to unify students and reduce violence at schools across the country.
Leyshock, now a CU freshman, led the event at Columbine until she graduated. Friday, she is bringing it to the Boulder campus, she said.
Friday morning, several student organizations, including the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Resource Center and the Women’s Resource Center, will gather on the Norlin Quad to raise awareness about the event.
That night, Rachel’s Challenge — an organization started by the family of Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine shooting — will give a presentation in the UMC that stresses the importance of kindness as an anti-violence message.
Leyshock is pleased to have several student groups participating in the day’s events, but she hopes to connect with students who are feeling isolated from the campus and their peers.
Students will be wearing white T-shirts for unity — students can feel segregated by their appearance, Leyshock said.
“Often, the people who choose violence and hatred are the ones feeling disconnected and left out,” Leyshock said. “Our goal is to reach out to those students who don’t feel like they fit in and help them find their place on campus.”
Leyshock pitched the idea for the event to the Freshmen Council, an entity of CU Student Government, for their annual project. Brianna Majewski, CU freshman and member of the Freshmen Council, said Leyshock’s passion for the project attracted immediate support from the group.
Organizers of the event said the campaign is especially relevant to freshmen who may still be struggling to connect with the CU community.
“It’s really appropriate for the Freshman Council to be putting this on, I think,” Leyshock said. “We want to set an example for other freshman that there are places to get involved, and where they can find a community, and we thought this was a good way to do it.”
Majewski said having organizations and student groups gather in the center of campus will make it easy for students to see what CU offers that might help them find a place to fit in among 30,000 students.
Other universities have tried the campaign, but is strongest in K-12 schools, Leyshock said, where students are easier to reach.
The Women’s Resource Center will be supporting the freshmen during CU’s first Day Without Hate event on Friday, said Hannah Wilks, the center’s associate director.
“Our mission is to create an environment where women can thrive,” Wilks said. “This event is helping support women and supporting victims’ rights, so it fits perfectly with our mission.”
Wilks said the staff will be on Norlin Quad Friday to reach out to students who may not know about their services, which are typically tucked away in a small office in the University Memorial Center.