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Starting school on a positive note

Students at Cheektowaga Central High School assembled in the auditorium on the first day of school for a presentation prepared by members of Rachel's Challenge Club. The succinct, student-driven, and somewhat humorous presentation proved to be a success among their most fastidious critics -- their peers.

Rachel Scott was the first victim in the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999 in Littleton, Colo. An essay written by Rachel before she died, "My Ethics, My Codes of Life," has inspired teens to be kind and compassionate.

The presentation at Cheektowaga Central re-enacted the trials and tribulations behind high school walls. Key characters were junior Mahlia Lowell, who played the role of a reticent, outcast nerd. Senior Dominic Paris played the popular jock that ran off with the blonde girl. Senior Miranda Jawarski played the candid, nice girl who couldn't get the popular jock in the end.

Accompanying the act was a monologue and reading of Rachel's essay, recited by junior Courtney Mahoney and senior Alicia Witzl. The monologue expressed a different message on high school life: While we may be classified by cliques, we all share a common ground of trying to define who we really want to be and how others see us. It all comes down to one thing -- we are all individuals, with different dreams, ambitions and ideas. Cliques don't define who we are.

The presentation was made by the students for the students. They began preparing in the beginning of the summer with meetings and run-throughs on Mondays and Wednesdays. Joelle Silver, a teacher at Cheektowaga Central, advised the club members.

"We were all nervous at first that it wasn't going to go too well and that people weren't going to respond to it," said Courtney.

Humor proves to never fail at entertaining an audience. In the midst of the presentation, Courtney walked on stage and started mopping the floor and locker with a janitor's mop.

"I was the janitor and I was in overalls . . . everyone commented how funny the janitor's outfit was," said Courtney.

Junior Mahlia Lowell said, "We got a much better reaction from our school than we thought, it motivated the kids."

"We want them to work hard . . . and at the same time enjoy going to school," said Courtney.

"The two main points of the assembly was to start a chain reaction," Mahlia said, "and to make this school year the best one yet."

Nhan Bui is a junior at Cheektowaga Central High School.

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