NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – From churches to schools, abuse and bullying are contributing factors for nearly 200,000 children who skip school everyday because of fear of bullying.

Author John Harrell, himself a victim of childhood abuse, works with an organization called Rachel’s Challenge to change that national trend.

The group is named for Rachel Joy Scott, the first teenager killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999.

“Rachel was a unique child,” said Harrell. “Rachel reached out to three different groups of kids at school: kids who were new to school, kids who were getting picked on, and special needs students. She didn’t care about being popular, she cared about making an impact.”

After her death, her friends and family discovered how much of an influence she had made and her straight-forward theory: “If one person goes out of their way to show compassion, it will start a chain reaction of the same.”

In the 19 years since then, her message has been seen by more than 25 million people and is the foundation of programs at all levels of schools.

The “challenges” include looking for the good in others and avoiding prejudice.

“If we can connect with someone, truly look and see the heart of who they are – not who they want you to see, but who they truly are – then we connect with those people,” said Harrell. “That can go a long way to cure some of the divisiveness our world is experiencing.”

Parents and teachers looking for more information about scheduling a Rachel’s Challenge event can find more information on the group’s website at