(Adam Dashevsky ('19))

Adam Dashevsky ('19)

East Students participate in various activities surrounding gun violence prevention for civic engagement week.

March 15, 2018

From making posters to writing letters to staging a walkout, East students have had the opportunity for their voices to be heard during this civic engagement week. A main discussion for this week was about gun violence prevention, with activities surrounding this important issue.

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Cherry Hill East students participate in national walkout to honor gun violence victims

Adam Dashevsky ('19)

Cherry Hill East students participate in national walkout to honor gun violence victims

Yesterday, March 14, 2018 marked one month since the horrific school shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead. Across the nation, students and teachers walked out of their schools to have their voices heard.

I’m walking for student safety and for the students at Parkland who suffered such a horrible tragedy””

— Oliver Adler ('20)

Students at Cherry Hill East started their protesting on February 27 as they walked out of the school to voice their disapproval of the security of the building, as well as an incident involving a district staff member. The protest that occurred on March 14 was not as specific, with students walking out to voice their opinions on a plethora of different issues such as gun violence and honoring the Parkland victims.

“I’m walking for student safety and for the students at Parkland who suffered such a horrible tragedy,” said Oliver Adler (‘20)

“I want common sense gun control. We don’t necessarily need to repeal the Second Amendment, but there is no need for someone to have basically a military assault rifle,” said Nick Feldman (‘19).

The walkout was planned out by Student Government Association (SGA) President Maddie Levine and Principal Dr. Dennis Perry. Morning classes were shortened to 47 minutes so students would not be missing class if they planned to walk out. Despite the chilly weather, students walked around the school for 17 minutes to remember the 17 victims who lost their lives on February 14.

“Today I walked for the students. The students are very passionate at this time, and they are learning a lot about how to be active in appropriate ways. So I wanted to support our students,” said Perry.

Students also had the opportunity to hear Katie Crona, a victim of the Columbine shooting in April of 1999, speak during the lunch breaks. Crona was very proud of the East students for using their voices and was very pleased with the walkout.

“[The walkout] is giving me a renewed sense of hope. It’s very hard to watch these types of issues escalate and then get watered down and pushed to the side. My hope is that everyone will stay engaged, stay unified and hopefully start to really make a difference because you guys absolutely have the power,” said Crona.

The faculty was also very happy to see students stand up and use their voices to speak their opinion.

“I think today really culminated with a great speaker and a great march. I really hope that students get energized to make a difference in their futures,” said SGA adviser and English teacher Mrs. Katie Radbill.

It is no secret that the youth of today has no fear of speaking their minds. The past couple of weeks at East has proven that kids have a powerful voice, and they can use that voice to bring change where they believe change is needed.

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Katie Crona, Columbine survivor, speaks to East students about her experience

Josh Pipe ('20)

Katie Crona, Columbine survivor, speaks to East students about her experience

“I am a person who survived the shooting on April 20, 1999.  I am alive today because at 11:14 that morning, a propane tank did not detonate. ”

Katie Crona, a graduate of Columbine High School, spoke publicly for the very first time about her traumatizing experience in front of East students yesterday during both during lunch breaks. Renee Wimmer (‘19) introduced the speaker, as she was the one who reached out to Crona to have her share her story with the East student body.

During Lunch Break One, nearly every seat of Lecture Hall One had been taken and students lined the back wall for the opportunity to listen to the first-hand account from Crona.  Lunch Break Two was no different in the auditorium which had its seats approximately three-quarters filled with East students and faculty.

Chelsea Stern (‘18)
Crona tells her story to students

Crona began her half-hour long presentation by speaking about her life today, still recovering from the painful, unerasable memories of her her freshman year.

She then recounted the story of the days leading up to the Columbine shooting, as well as the day when active shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold open-fired in the school.  

“Science had just started when we heard noises that sounded like what I can only describe as a rollercoaster descending from its peak,” said Crona.

Crona, a 14-year-old freshman at the time, was in her earth science class during the 49-minute shooting.

“Soon after, two girls ran in screaming that someone in the cafeteria had a gun and was shooting people. My teacher told us to get under our desks,” said Crona.

Crona told the series of events that followed, from the four hours she spent trapped in the only classroom that was not fired into to the police-conducted pat-down and escort out of the building.

“I wrote letters to each of my family members telling them goodbye and that I love them,” said Crona.  “I folded them up, tucked them into my junior varsity soccer jacket, zipped the pockets shut and hoped they’d be found on my body and eventually be given to my brothers, my sister and my parents.”

Three years ago, Crona was officially diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To this day, Crona feels physical and mental pain at the news of yet another mass shooting, and she has trouble attending movie theaters, protests or concerts, as she lives in constant fear of the events that took place on April 20, 1999.

“Of the factors that can contribute to a PTSD diagnosis, according to the National Institute of Health, I scored a perfect 14 out of 14,” said Crona.

Crona’s heart-wrenching story, which brought tears to her eyes as she recalled the events in discrete detail,  clearly struck a chord of intense emotion among East students, too. In light of the movements sparked by young people nationally, Crona ended her presentation with a hopeful call-to-action for what students can be doing to make sure their voices are heard concerning gun violence and control.

Crona said, “I challenge you to shift the tone and start today in your school.  I challenge you to not disparage or hurt those you may not like or be friends with.  I challenge you to stop cyberbullying and online harassment. I challenge you to think about what the worst thing that could happen to you would be if you simply stopped and smiled and said hello to someone you normally ignore.”

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