Philly students of Sandy Hook victims: ‘We still feel their pain’

Ninth-grade stu­dents at Kens­ing­ton In­ter­na­tion­al Busi­ness High School pose with pa­per but­ter­flies which they made as part of a class pro­ject to send to the fam­il­ies of vic­tims of last month’s mass shoot­ing in New­town, Conn. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ART NEW­MAN

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 sne­w­

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