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Forest Hill HS gives students outlet to express themselves during #NeverAgain movement

Posted at 9:09 PM, Mar 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-14 21:09:42-04

While thousands of students across Florida and the country planned walk outs Wednesday morning, some schools organized events on campus, giving the students an outlet to express themselves.

WPTV's Alanna Quillen was the only reporter allowed into Forest Hill High School, where teachers planned with students a meaningful way to pay tribute to the lives lost one month after the shooting.

They called the event, #WeSoarTogether. Forest Hill HS and Stoneman Douglas HS are sister schools with similar mascots: Falcons and eagles. 

"Instead of walking out, we’re standing up for what we feel is important," said Jill Schwartz, a FHHS English teacher who helped coordinate the event with the students. “I love my students. I’m not only a teacher. I’m a supporter."

During the event, staff and students worked together to create 17 stations to represent the 17 victims, lost in the Stoneman Douglas shooting. 

"This was all them. They wanted to be a leader," said Schwartz. "They want to put a stop to parkland and Columbine. They’re going to look back on this and say wow, I did something. And it meant something."

Each station armed students with a little something to express themselves, with each station representing a hashtag, to represent the current Generation Z.

The #LetUsBeHeard station featured a megaphone and a soapbox stand, allowing students to voice their feelings and frustrations.

"I feel more powerful than walking out," said Anneliese Abreu, who helped run the booth. "The fact that our principal is helping us out with this, it's such a great feeling."

There was a #PositivityZone featuring music and kind words, a #Love booth with face painting, a #StopBulling station where students could sign an anti-bullying pledge, and another area giving students the chance to draw out their feelings with chalk.

“I feel like my voice is being heard… and it’s obviously working because people are joining in with me," said freshman Megan Murphy. “Finally someone is listening."

Students could even register and pre-register to vote at the #RocktheVote station.

“We’re allowing kids to have a voice, not just at the school but the country," said student Tina Daughtry, who helped run the voting booth. “We’re going to be the people to change the world because we’re the next generation."

Daughtry was part of the planning process for the event and said she was happy to work with school staff on a better alternative to walking out.

“We were like, 'We’ll walk down to the park and back.' And we were like, that doesn’t do anything. So let’s stand up. Let’s have a soap box over here, voting. Let’s speak out," she said.

Over in the cafeteria, art students and seniors Victoria Alvarez and Jessenia Garcia have been working on a full scale wall mural. Garcia painted portraits of Stoneman Douglas students while Alvarez designed an eagle surrounded by handprints, where every student at the school can add their own hand print for Stoneman Douglas.

“We want to soar together with them," said Alvarez. “This is something we can all change and make a difference in."

The guests of honor Wednesday were Katherine Dadd and Kyrah Simon, who are both are Stoneman Douglas students who endured the shooting.

“We're trying to bring attention to the issue of gun violence," said Dadd.

“it’s sad that it took this to get people actually make a movement, to get celebrities involved, officials involved and politicians to get it on their mind," said Simon.

They say seeing schools around the country standing with them gives them the courage to continue this movement.

“I hope gun violence remains a topic, remains a discussion and that it doesn’t get brushed under the rug," she said.

The 17th and final station took place at night where staff and students will be releasing 17 lanterns into the sky and firing 17 cannon shots to pay tribute to the lives lost.