On Valentine’s Day, a tragedy occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that shook the nation. Since that day, many students haven’t been the same.
“I will never forget my teacher turning to our class and being like, ‘Start walking or running or doing anything, just start moving now,'”Arianna Otero told WPBF News.
Throughout the nation’s turmoil over school security, gun laws and mental health debates, one thing has remained clear: the students at MSD experienced a tragedy that changed their lives forever. But one organization was born from the chaos to bring light to the students left in turmoil, to focus their efforts not on national debates, but on healing.
It’s called Camp Shine.
The Valentine’s Day Massacre at MSD
On February 14, Lori Alhadeff dropped her daughter, Alyssa, off at school with the usual “I love you.” She didn’t know it would be the last time she would see her daughter alive.
“Parents, teachers and students expect school to be a place of safety,” says a West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer. “Instead, a nightmare unfolded.”
Alyssa, along with 16 other students and staff members, was killed in one of the most horrific shootings in US history. The shooter, past student Nikolas Cruz, was later apprehended by police. Experts and journalists found he had a history of mental illness.
Months after the tragedy, the students at Stoneman Douglas are still fighting to cope with the loss of friends and teachers. Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña are two such students who channeled their pain into drama, producing a song entitled “Shine” that sparked national attention.
Shine MSD was born shortly after with the intention of raising funds for victims and their families. Designed by drama therapist Jessica Asch, who has aided victims of the Holocaust, Shine MSD’s curriculum focuses its efforts on aiding student mental health through the arts.
Through the summer, Camp Shine became a beacon of hope and a melting pot of ideas, emotions and connectedness for the victims of the MSD shooting. At camp, they produce songs, participate in plays, create art, write stories and more.
“It is something that connects us no matter who you are, where you come from, what your background is,” certified music therapist Bree Gordon says, “and because of that it is able to bring us together in a way where we are not relying on words, and for these students, words and verbalizing their feelings was something that is very difficult.”
A Beacon of Light
Has it worked? The camp’s psychiatrists certainly seem to think so. In fact, reductions in PTSD, anxiety and depression have been recorded in students and further investigations are being conducted by researchers from the University of Miami. They hope to publish their findings so that other schools throughout the nation can benefit from such a curriculum.
While darkness once infringed the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a beacon of light is slowly illuminating them once more.