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Teens gather messages for Parkland peers, say they must speak up

From standing in front of a banner declaring “We Can Make the World a Better Place By…,” making paper circles with ideas for completing the thought and posting the hashtag #justiceforparkland, juniors Aliyah Rivera, Seth Martin and sophomore Michelle Rivera collected donations and messages of support to send to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The Wyoming High students said they wanted to reach out to Florida peers who experienced the Feb. 14 mass shooting at their school.

“It was teenagers who were affected the most, so if we teenagers speak up about it more people will be aware,” Aliyah said.

Seth said teenagers are impacted no matter where they live.

“Just because I’m not in Florida doesn’t mean I’m not affected by what happened in Florida,” he said.

Written ideas for making the world better included “spread kindness,” “help each other,” “be a leader,” and “gun control,” among many others.

They also set up a video camera at the recent Wyoming Fine Arts Festival for people to share messages of sympathy and encouragement. Students are emailing their support to the Stoneman Douglas principal and theater teacher.

Gun violence is a complicated issue that needs to be addressed, Aliyah said.

From left, Seth Martin, Aliyah Rivera and Michelle Rivera create a show of support for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

“There are so many different factors that fall into it. It’s not just one thing. People are so quick to point fingers at just one specific thing, and they aren’t looking at the bigger picture.”

The biggest thing she is an advocate for, she said, are better resources for mental health. “There are not enough people who understand it, who know what it looks like, who know how to help.”

Seth also has ideas for solutions.

“America as it is now can’t do much about controlling guns,” he said, “but they can do a lot about controlling the people who use guns. Doing stronger background checks, trying to keep safer gun control policies will really help.”

Michelle said it was important for them to speak up. “If teenagers don’t do something to help, nothing will change,” she said.

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USA Today: Talking to kids about the Florida school shooting

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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