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Parkland: The movements for change that came out of tragedy

Leslie Ovalle

Five years since the 2018 Parkland school shooting, many have decided to honor the lives that were lost due to this act of violence through non-profit organizations and passing legislation in the state and across the country.

Tuesday, Feb. 14, marks five years since the tragic mass shooting that left 17 people dead and 17 others injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Since then, many have decided to honor the lives that were lost due to this act of violence through nonprofit organizations and legislation in the state and across the country.

Below, you’ll find the various organizations keeping the memory of the victims alive.

March For Our Lives (M4OL)

The youth-led movement, March For Our Lives, was born out of tragedy. The survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting gathered together and turned their anger and pain into political action. The organization promotes civic engagement, education and direct action to eliminate gun violence.

“We knew we had to make sure that what happened to our community never happens again,” according to the M4OL website.

In March of 2018, five weeks after the shooting at MSD, they organized a march in Washington D.C. to call for stricter gun laws. Over 800,000 people marched alongside these students and their families, inspiring a wave of marches in cities nationwide .

In June of 2022, after back-to-back shootings in Buffalo, NY, and Uvalde, TX, , they took to the streets again.

Since it started, M4OL has been able to meet with lawmakers in D.C. to demand legislative action. Their efforts helped push for the first federal legislation on gun violence in decades, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which expanded background checks and allocated funding for mental health and crisis intervention programs. President Joe Biden signed it into law in June of 2022.

Shine MSD/Camp Shine

In the days following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, drama students, Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña , turned to the arts, specifically, music to help cope. The students and their community realized the healing power of artistic expression. From there the nonprofit, Shine MSD, came to fruition. The organization aims to help community members heal through making art .

They also created Camp Shine, a free arts therapy program. Since its inception, Camp Shine has provided summer and winter programs for South Florida students and the Parkland community, allowing them to find therapeutic value in a variety of art forms. They are currently preparing their 2023 summer program.

Make Our Schools Safe–Alyssa’s Law

Make Our Schools Safe is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting students and teachers at school. The parents of Alyssa Alhadeff founded the organization, which seeks to strengthen the weaknessnes in school security.

The organization collaborates with high-level security advisers to offer survival skills in emergency situations that empower faculty and staff to protect their students and themselves. Their work led to Alyssa's Law, which calls for installing silent panic alarms that link to law enforcement, so that they can respond to a scene as quickly as possible, take down a threat and help any victims. The law was passed in Florida, New Jersey , and New York. It has been introduced in six states and in Congress.

Safe Schools for Alex

Safe Schools for Alex is a foundation focused on providing schools with the most up-to-date safety practices and resources, so that all children can learn in a safe environment.

Max Schachter, whose son Alex was among the 17 people killed, has traveled the country, pushing for national safety standards in schools at the highest levels of the U.S. government. In 2018, he advocated for the creation of a federal agency to house school safety best practices and in 2019, former President Donald Trump created the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse at SchoolSafety.gov. In June 2022, Schachter attended the White House ceremony where President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which made SchoolSafety.gov permanent by law.

Change the Ref

Founded in the memory of their late son Joaquin Oliver, Manuel and Patricia Oliver made a commitment to making sure the life of their son and the other 16 victims are never forgotten.

Change The Ref (CTR) was formed to empower our Future Leaders by giving kids the tools they need to make changes to critical issues that affect our nation, through education, conversation and activism.

They use urban art and nonviolent creative confrontation to expose the disastrous effects of mass shootings. Some of their initiatives include Shame cards, a collection of postcards that show how a lack of gun laws is affecting the country; Corporate Mark Project, a symbol for brands and businesses to show support for gun safety; and Walls of Demand, walls that are meant to remind people of the realities of gun violence by using art to communicate in ways that are more powerful than words.

Orange Ribbons for Jaime

Founded by the parents of Jaime Guttenberg, one of the victims of this shooting, Orange Ribbons for Jaime is a foundation that focuses not only on honoring the causes that support gun safety, but also causes that that were important to her.

Jaime cared deeply about children with disabilities and animals. With this in mind, the organization has supported causes like Jacob’s Pillow, the Paley Institute and the Broward County Humane Society.

In March 2019, representatives in Congress introduced common sense, bicameral legislation to implement instant universal background checks for the sale of gun ammunition. The Ammunition Background Check Act will be known as “Jaime’s Law.” The bill passed in the U.S. House and is awaiting U.S. Senate approval.

For the upcoming 2023 legislative session, Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky of Boca Raton, and Democratic Rep. Dan Daley of Coral Springs, filed a bill on a state level , also named “Jaime’s Law,” that would close the loophole on background checks and make them a requirement for all individuals purchasing ammunition in Florida.

Parkland Cares

Parkland Cares was founded in the wake of the shooting. The foundation started connecting MSD students, teachers, staff and the community with services for mental health counseling and therapy. Parkland Cares has since expanded its mission to provide grant funding to local nonprofits that provide counseling for those throughout the South Florida community.

The WalkUp Foundation 

Since the tragedy that took their daughter Alaina Petty, Ryan and Kelly Petty have been actively involved in the public policy arena as advocates for improving school safety through early identification and intervention of potential threats.

The WalkUp Foundation focuses on protecting students and teachers at schools through the support of evidence-based policies and programs, which aim to improve the culture in schools, educate everyone to identify and report potential threats and encourage robust and accountable interactions between students, educators, parents, mental health professionals, and law enforcement.

Eagles Haven

The Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center opened in March 2019 to rediscover wellness and restore hope in the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs. Their clinical team assists in the healing process by providing wellness experiences, yoga, creative art classes, meditation, dance, crisis support, case management and support groups, all free of charge to nearly 700 people in the community.

Professionals United for Parkland

Professionals United for Parkland was created to identify and meet the mental health and well-being needs of the South Florida community in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. They provide evidence-based services, including education for the general community and professionals, clinical training, clinical services, support for clinicians and more.

They work alongside local organizations and groups to identify gaps in current services and make sure the needs of the community are addressed.

Parkland 17 Memorial Foundation

The Parkland 17 Memorial Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is planning a public memorial to honor the 17 lives that were taken on Feb.l 14, 2018. The memorial will be a serene space for people to reflect. Fundraising for the design and construction of a memorial is underway.

The foundation announced that the tribute will be located on a preserve at the former Heron Bay Golf Course. They are currently conducting a national search for artists to submit conceptual design proposals for the memorial.

You can apply here.
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