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The legacy of the Columbine High School shootings is the subject of a summer research project being conducted by EXCEL Scholar Amy Dziekonski ’03 (Vernon, N.J.) and Justin Watson, visiting assistant professor of religion. By revisiting this event from a scholarly perspective, Dziekonski is gaining insight into the religious impact of the tragedy.

“Dr. Watson is writing a book on the evangelical response to the shootings at Columbine High School, focusing on the manner in which Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernal were elevated to martyr status following their deaths at Columbine,” says Dziekonski, a Marquis Scholar and double major in English and religion and politics.

Dziekonski is helping Watson sift through the mountain of material that exists on the topic. Her work is proving indispensable to Watson.

“There is so much material on Columbine, and it just continues to grow,” he says. “She is very enthusiastic and diligent about poring through difficult police reports, eyewitness accounts, and the like. Amy is quick to grasp the task and always exceeds my expectations.”

In addition to honing her research skills, the work has offered Dziekonski another perspective on an event shrouded in tragedy.

“We often hear about how schools have changed their security policies following Columbine, but what we don’t hear so frequently is the way that Columbine has changed religion in this country,” she says. “So many of these evangelical communities offer ideas on the good that came out of this tragedy, and for me, a person who only saw the horror and pain of Columbine, it is an enlightening and somewhat comforting experience.

“I’ve had the opportunity to step outside of the circle of news stories and into the more personal side of Columbine where the heart of this tragedy is. Columbine is a complex and emotionally difficult topic to research. I was a senior in high school at the time, and finding out that something like that had happened in a place so much like my own town, my own high school, to kids my own age, filled me with deep sadness, endless questions, and an instantaneous connection with the students at Columbine.”

In addition to a personal interest in the topic, the project directly applies to Dziekonski’s future plans.

“I intend to work in the realm of religious studies, and more specifically the way governments handle religion and religious groups,” she says. “Studying the religious revival after Columbine has given me a better idea of the strength of religion and religious groups, especially in the aftermath of a tragedy.”

Dziekonski credits Lafayette with offering her an opportunity to do detailed research that will have a positive effect on her future.

“Because of the accessibility of professors at Lafayette, their desire to further the education of their students, and the fact that most are engaged in some type of research project, the opportunity to do research was readily available to me,” she says. “Lafayette provided all of the resources I needed to do this research. All it took for me was taking that extra step and pursuing such a project.”

Dziekonski is an English as a Second Language tutor and member of the Kirby Government and Law Society and Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection. She volunteers for Kids in the Community, is president of the Residence Hall Council, and will be an residence advisor in the fall.

Categorized in: Academic News