Fellows Respond with Accountability and Action After Nearby Stoneman Douglas Shooting

To whom it may concern:

Having witnessed the murder of unarmed black teenagers, the mass shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary and several other fatal shootings, I truly thought I would see stricter gun laws. At the time, I was naïve and thought the US government would take action. Sadly, I was mistaken – again and again. And over the years, gun violence has only risen. When I heard the news about Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, my heart dropped. How many more lives will be taken until we get stricter gun laws? Why won’t people understand that gun violence won’t stop unless we do something about it?

The few months that I’ve spent in Under a Tree has taught me that I have a voice and can broadcast it to speak about injustice and inequality in our society. Even before the Parkland mass shooting, I’d been signing petitions for issues like abortion rights, the #metoo movement, DACA, and several more. I watched the conservative political action conference and saw Wayne Lapierre, the CEO of the NRA, completely disregard attempts to get him to open up about gun control. He didn’t even discuss the victims and the survivors of the Parkland shooting.

After watching the CPAC, I knew if I wanted change, I would have to act now. I recently turned eighteen and I’m finally eligible to vote. I’ve been researching and looking up information to aid and inform me as a first-time voter. I’ve also visited the website change.org to search for gun control petitions and pledge my support. On March 17th, a friend of mine at Pines Charter (a high school near mine) will be hosting a peaceful protest to the mourn the victims of the Parkland shooting and everyone else who has lost their lives to senseless gun violence. I will be showing my support by attending and inviting friends from school and whoever else is interested in joining me. Sadly, in the back of my head, the question that still haunts me is ‘What if I’m the next victim of gun violence?’ Will it end there or continue on?
— Michaella Saintil, House of Sagan, March 3, 2018

To whom it may concern:

Ever since February 14th, it hasn’t felt the same. The hallways have quieted down, people dont hang out after school, and there’s an eerie feeling lingering in us. The week of the shooting, many of my band friends and I were scheduled to be evaluated at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas two days after the shooting, a fact that will haunt me forever. I had cried at and rejoiced at this school for evaluations for years, and used to think these memories were so intense. After the schooting, all those “huge” memories now leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth. To think that a school I felt like was so safe and clean, one that’s looked up to so much, and to have witnessed them win the state championship in November...it didn’t feel like such an admirable school could have a shooting.

The truth is, no matter the state titles or grades the school receives, as long as guns are still as unregulated as they are, there’s always a risk going into the school. To think that every day I walk into a school expecting to worry about how I’m supposed to raise my grade a point or who I should choose as my project partner, and yet I never realized that there’s actully a risk in going to school. And it shouldn’t be that way. While usually my worries have to do with how to raise my grade two points by the end of the quarter or who to partner with on a project, I’ve been taught should be worrying about more than that. I need to pay attention to who’s next to me or where’s the best way to escape the part of the school I’m on. I need to keep my phone on me at all times and even all of this cant ensure my safety during a school shooting. It can only slightly increase my chances.

And with that, I realized that the only way for me to feel safer is to step out of this illusion of safety. While something should’ve changed before the 18 school shootings of 2018, it helped us realize that the way we achieve change isn’t waiting for our politicians to do something. It’s to push them to. Seeing so many of these young survivors speak to politicians like Marco Rubio and share their story on CNN inspires me because we’re all fighting for the same cause: more gun control.

But my point isn’t to change anyone’s political views. It is instead to ask you to listen. If a 17 year old kid is bringing up great but almost impossible ideas, don’t let the ‘they’re just kids’ mentality step in. Instead, help them. Help us. Let us know how we can realistically improve gun control without sounding so far-fetched. While many adults often repeat ‘wow, I’ve lost all my faith in humanity,’ usually after they see a teenager do something irresponsible related to electronics, we use that to our advantage in Under a Tree. We use our reliance on social media to help spread our ideas so that we as teenagers don’t spend all our time mindlessly scrolling. As we like our friends’ dog posts, we spread posts about protests or politicians that we need to pay attention to.

So the next time you see a teenager and think they’re too young to make up their minds, especially when trying to influence politics, remember we all want and deserve to be listened to, just like we’ve listened to adults all these years. The only difference is now we’re fighting to be heard back.
— Camille Dumit, House of Shahidi, March 2, 2018

To whom it may concern:

A young man, whose name will not be recognized here, recently used a gun to kill
seventeen people from his school—seventeen innocent students, teachers, coaches, humans. But occasions like this are, sadly, something that happens all too frequently in America. 

Being so close to Stoneman Douglas High School (we are only 20 minutes away), most of us have been looking at the list of victims and recognizing a name or two. We have been studying their faces, recognizing ours in theirs. We have heard their cries to make sense of something so senseless and heard our own voices call out, yearning for change even if we cannot find any meaning. 

Sadness, regret, denial, shock, anger, fear, passion. That is what we are feeling in recollection of the tragedy that happens far too often. Together, we must come together and stand for what we believe in. And while this occasion has shaken many of us to the core, our sense of community has only grown stronger and our sense of purpose has only been emboldened.

Together, we young people will be the change we want to see in the world. We will change the things we cannot accept. We will not accept the things we cannot change. We have looked to the adults in our lives for leadership and for the courage to stand up for what’s right. There was Sandy Hook and we kept looking, waiting. And then came Pulse nightclub in Orlando. And we looked and waited. But then came Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and then Sutherland Springs Church in Texas. Then came Rancho Tehama Reserve in California and Marshall County High School in Kentucky. And now Stoneman Douglas, our neighbors.
And now, we are done looking, done waiting. #NeverAgain
— Julian Suarez, House of Mazari, March 2, 2018


Alyssa Alhadeff, 14. Martin Duque Anguiano, 14. Scott Beigel, 35. Nicholas Dworet, 17. Aaron Feis, 37. Jaime Guttenberg, 14. Christopher Hixon, 49. Luke Hoyer, 15. Cara Loughran, 14. Gina Montalto, 14. Joaquin Oliver, 17. Alaina Petty, 14. Meadow Pollack, 18. Helena Ramsay, 17. Alex Schachter, 14. Carmen Schentrup, 16. Peter Wang, 15.


We grew up constantly being told things like ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ and ‘Don’t talk to strangers.’ Isn’t it sad that our children are going to grow up constantly being told things like ‘Pay attention to the kid in the back because he may be the next school shooter’ and ‘You’re not safe anywhere, even at school.’ We grew up worrying about which book to get at the annual book fair and our kids are literally going to grow up worrying about what shoes they are going to wear to school because their light-up sketchers would give away their location to the shooter. WE DEMAND CHANGE!

Living in Florida, I probably feel more unsafe here than in any other state. Fun fact: did you know you do NOT need to be 21 to purchase a firearm. You do NOT need a weapons license. And you do NOT even need to register your weapon! WE DEMAND CHANGE!

If you can’t even drink, buy your own house, be an adult, there is no reason why purchasing a fire arm should be accessible in any way. The fact that this tragedy happened with a completely legal MILITARY GRADE weapon just further exemplifies that these laws need to be changed. Another thing is that an assault rifle is an assault rifle for one reason… I’ll give you a hint…Oh, yeah for assault! Why is there any need for an automatic or semi-automatic weapon to be sitting in a safe in your house? They are not needed and should be completely removed from the common database allowed to every day civilians purchasing guns. These laws are outdated, ineffective and they are KILLING our children. How many more innocent lives need to be lost in order for legislation to realize these laws on gun control need to be enhanced in more ways than one? How many lives will have to be lost in order for legislation to STOP taking money from the National Rifle Association and actually do something?

Marjory Stoneman Douglas stands as the EIGHTEENTH school shooting this year alone and we have not even finished the month of February. Being so close to home, let’s show everyone that they’re messing with the wrong county. Broward will not and cannot be silenced. Our voices need to be heard and we cannot stop fighting now for this cause we so deeply believe in, just like Emma Gonzalez and so many other students who have been chanting, #NeverAgain. Instead of allowing people to move on and forget about MSD and just letting it become a statistic, it is our duty to ensure that no more innocent lives are lost—that this is the LAST school shooting.

There are always going to be people who disagree, who will fight for more guns, who will defend their guns to the grave with them, and will choose to value a large piece of metal that has purpose to kill over the innocent lives of children being lost. ‘Passing stricter laws won’t do anything, will be repeated. And WE WILL CALL BS. WE CALL BS on everyone focused on stagnation versus progress because comfort and growth are not two words that coincide with each other. These shootings have become normalized and so many people in America are okay with saying ‘this is just the way it is.’ BUT IT’S NOT. There is no reason why a mass shooting, in the one place you are supposed to feel safe, killing 17 people, should be written off as ‘it is what it is.’ Stricter gun control laws must be passed and they must be passed now! For the benefit of the doubt, hey, maybe it doesn’t work, there’s no way of knowing for sure (although I highly doubt that since gun control has literally proven effective in every other first world country), but we will never know for sure unless we try.

Today is the one week anniversary of the MSD Shooting. While we have barely had time to accept this, to grieve, to comfort one another, we have spent this time fighting. We are angry and the fight does not end here. Every single day we must keep fighting to ensure something is going to change. Be active in the political community. How many of you are or will be 18 come this November? YOU can help. YOU can vote! YOU can send letters to your congress and your local legislature voicing your opinion. Educate yourselves and do the little things that mean the most in the end. Remember, these students could have been us. These teachers could have been ours. I know it’s hard to imagine that such a small school like Somerset could have an impact, but there’s power in numbers and we are stronger together than we are apart. And our neighbors at MSD, and our fellow students throughout this country need that strength...perhaps now more than ever.
— Sarena Torres, House of Sagan, February 21, 2018