Standing strong

Students at Swenson High School remember the victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting through a special ceremony on National School Walkout Day.

United for their cause: Students at Swenson Arts and Technology High School made a poster for each individual killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Students took turns reading about the victim’s life and how they should be remembered. JOHN COLE/TIMES PHOTO

Last Wednesday, students across the country participated in National School Walkout Day to stand with the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 resulted in 17 deaths, making it one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.

This shooting once again prompted a national conversation about school safety and gun policies in the United States, with students taking the lead in forming this nationwide protest.

Students exited their schools at 10 a.m. to participate in a wide variety of protests. Some schools planned to spend 17 minutes of silence outside, one for each death of the shooting, while other students staged walkouts for the rest of the day.

Students at Swenson Arts and Technology High School decided to propose their own way in remembering the victims of the shooting.

Just two days after the massacre, 10th-graders and members of student government Stephany Ramos and Kiarenly Rodriguez formulated a plan for the administration to encourage the whole school in remembering this shooting.

“We (Stephany and I) were talking about what happened, and we seen that a lot of schools were doing a walkout, and we decided we wanted to do something similar,” Rodriguez said. “Instead of a walkout, we wanted to do a ceremony because we didn’t want students just walking out and being unorganized. So we just did it our own way based on that idea and we came up with that ceremony.”

Student government sponsor Emily Wetzel and principal Colette Langston liked the proposal and let the students take charge in organizing this event.

Leading up to the day of the walkout, Ramos and Rodriguez, with their classmates in student government and in coordination with the school, reached out to gauge interest to see who would be willing to make posters and write speeches for their ceremony.

JOHN COLE/TIMES PHOTO

The event ended up becoming a schoolwide effort, as students in digital media made laminated posters, while some students spent time at their homes making them.

There was a poster made for each individual killed at the shooting, followed with pictures of things the victim held close to them. Each person who provided a poster was responsible for reading a bit about the victim’s life and how they should be remembered.

Although the majority of the school went outside to participate in the ceremony, students were given the option to remember the victims in another way.

Those who opted to stay inside during the ceremony were given a 6×6 square piece of paper with “hands gripped together like a heart” and were assigned to write an inspirational message and color it in. The collection of pieces of paper is going to be made into an “inspirational quilt”, this quilt will either be sent to Stoneman Douglas High School or kept at the school as a reminder of what their goals are as a school.

“We wanted to make those 17 minutes meaningful,” said Wetzel.

Students who lined up outside, some wearing orange for gun violence, were able to hear a bit about each victim’s life and made clear that they were standing with those affected at Stoneman Douglas.

“This message we want to send to the victims’ parents is that we might not know what you are feeling or understand about what you are going through, but we are here for you and we will go through this long, difficult process with you, you have all of our support and condolences,” said Ramos.

After hearing about each victim, 10th-grader Aaliyah Smith sang Heaven by Beyonce to conclude the ceremony. ••

John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com