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I almost made it through high school without a school shooting

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Illustration by Abby Haywood (The Collegiate)

Last Thursday there was a shooting at my high school. Today, one week later, I will return to the scene of the gun violence to graduate.

On May 19, a group of teenagers had a shootout at East Kentwood High School after an alternative high school graduation ceremony at the EK football stadium. Families leaving the event and others who were on campus for a middle school concert were caught in the crossfire. Two people were shot and hospitalized. Miraculously, no one was killed.

The day after the shooting was supposed to be the last day of school for seniors, but classes were canceled after our campus became a crime scene. As a dual-enrolled student at both GRCC and EK, I almost made it through without having a shooting at my high school. 

It’s strange to think that merely a week after the shooting that followed an alternative high school graduation, we will be returning to the school to have our own graduation. My classmates are half-joking about wearing bulletproof vests under their graduation gowns. 

Sadly, school shootings have been normalized for our generation. For us, it’s not a matter of if it will happen at our school, but when. And when it does eventually happen, it’s not all that surprising. We grew up in a post-Columbine world. We’ve practiced lockdown drills since elementary school where we first learned to be quiet and hide in the corners of our classrooms. We have community police officers stationed in our schools. Many of us have stories of people calling in threats or bringing weapons to school.   

This year, there have been more school shootings in the U.S. than the number of weeks so far. We’re on week 21 and we’ve had 27 school shootings. According to Education Week, there have been 119 school shootings in the U.S. since 2018. At least 19 children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas while I wrote this. 

The generations before us have failed to stop the violence. For years there was nothing we could do about it. We were just kids. Now we are adults and we can take action. We can vote. We can protest. We can take leadership roles in our communities. The worst thing we can do in this situation is nothing. So what will we do? 

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