From Tragedy to Healing and Hope


Change The Ref

Poster featuring Joaquin (Guac) Oliver created by his father.

Cennedi Fry, Online Editor

February 14, 2018, a day of love that became a day of hurt and anguish for one Florida school and a nation. Marjory Stoneman Douglas suffered the great loss of 17 extraordinary people from an act of hate committed by a former student. The shooting led way to a social movement of stricter gun laws and regulations started by its own teens. One year later, and they are still going strong.

David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Delany Tarr, Cameron Kasky, and Fred Guttenberg, the father of one of the slain students have continued their efforts of getting common sense gun laws and regulations. They’ve held town halls in major cities, gone to congressional offices, and worked with local legislators, including Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto.

Mayor Peduto is working on a local ban on assault-style guns and certain accessories. He has faced tough criticism but still stands by it, even telling the district attorney to arrest him.

As for Marjory Stoneman Douglas itself, the community and students have been working on projects to help make the school feel like a safe space again. They have recently put in gardens on the school grounds, along with one big flower garden in front of the school’s main sign. The Eagle Eye (MSD’s news magazine) continues to accept donations to receive a copy of their memorial issue to raise money for The Eagle Eye Journalism Convention Scholarship fund.

Drama students Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña started a program called SHINE MSD which is an organization that uses music and art for healing purposes. Since it was formed shortly after the shooting they have released the song “Shine” which was performed at The March For Our Lives on March 24, 2018. They have also set up open mic nights at a local coffee shop. They continue to raise money to help heal their community through the sales of “Shine” and the merchandise on their website,

The March For Our Lives creators and sister organizations pushed for students to register to vote through Vote For Our Lives and The Road To Change. With their efforts, teen voter turnout went from 21% in the 2014 midterm elections to 31% in 2018.

Manuel Oliver the father of Joaquin (Guac) Oliver who was slain in the shooting started his own organization Change The Ref which strives to educate teens to be future leaders and activists. Change The Ref has held die-ins and sit-ins across the nation, each one always has a tribute to Joaquin painted by his father and decorated with sunflowers. Each one is held in public places including congressional offices and a grocery store.  The most recent project is Guac Is Back which is a bunch of 3D printed statues of Guac that are being used to rally against 3D printed guns.

The school district also implemented a new app called Safer Watch, which is much like safe2say which GLSD is using. It allows you to anonymously report suspicious activity.

Through all these efforts Marjory Stoneman Douglas continues to heal and help young activists put up a fight despite the darkness and will continue to shine.