Kensington students recently sent handmade gifts of hope to the families of victims of last month’s Newtown, Conn., shooting. They empathize, they said, because they are surrounded by tragedy every day in their Philly neighborhood.
Newtown, Conn. is more than 170 miles from Philadelphia. And yet, some students from Kensington said that distance didn’t diminish the pain they felt upon learning of the mass school shooting there last month, which left 20 children and six adults dead.
Especially, they said, because they face similar sorrow all too frequently.
“We all live in the project area in Kensington. We all know how it is. We’ve all seen the loss of loved ones,” said Kensington International Business High School student Edgar Rivera, 15. “We felt we should all send something to make them feel better and help ease their pain.”
Rivera and his fellow ninth-grade students came up with the idea of doing a group project to show support for the victims after discussing the tragedy in class.
About 100 students worked on the project, said ninth-grade coordinator and history teacher Art Newman. On Dec. 21, they sent over 200 handcrafted butterflies and flowers to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.
Newman said that the students decided to send flowers and butterflies to Newtown because the objects are symbols of everlasting life.
“We have tragedies every day,” said student Jessica Salguero-Snow, 14.
“There’s always a news story, someone different, aged 9 years old, or 80 years old, or 19 years old, even if they weren’t part of it, they were innocent bystanders, but they died because someone was careless and they had a gun.”
“Even though we’re in Philadelphia,” Salguero-Snow continued, “We still feel their pain.”
Newman said the students were very affected by hearing about the tragic school shooting and the deaths of so many children. The students’ first reactions, he said, were shock and disbelief.
They re-directed those feelings into the project, which was supported by the Bala Cynwyd-based Champions of Caring program.
“Our teacher decided to do it, because he felt that we should respond to it to let them know that we care, too, and we’re all here and we all know how it feels,” said student Maria Tapia, 14, of the project. “We’re all people. We all care about each other in some way.”
Some students wrote poetry about their feelings about this tragic massacre.
“I am sorry for your loss,” one student wrote on a brightly colored butterfly.
Another wrote, “It’s not easy to be in darkness, but light will always win.”
“The students wanted to do this,” Newman said. “They wanted to make a positive difference to themselves and the greater community at large.”
“I felt sorry for the families and the teachers who’d experienced such a traumatic event,” said Yeiniely Cruz, 15. “It’s just something that I felt deep inside of me, that sends me to tears. I just felt sorry for those kids because I can’t imagine going though that.”
“I wrote on my little butterfly, ‘I hope you and your families are all safe and have a wonderful future,’” Cruz said. “And I hope they do.”
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.