Tragedy unites before it divides. After a school shooting, love rushes in to soothe raw wounds. As wounds scab over and the media forgets, those urging for action separate from those sending their thoughts and prayers.
March For Our Lives (MFOL) is a student-led organization that works to prevent gun violence and helps treat its devastating effects. After surviving the Parkland shooting in sixth grade, current sophomore Zoe Weissman became involved with MFOL and created a chapter at Heritage two years ago.
Hoping to focus on mental health awareness (trauma recovery) and educate students about the basics of gun violence, Weissman invited Fla. Rep. Christine Hunschofsky to speak at a club meeting Dec. 13. The two met at the one-year memorial service for the Parkland shooting, when Rep. Hunschofsky was the mayor of Parkland at the time, and stayed in touch throughout quarantine.
Growing up in Boston, Rep. Hunschofsky witnessed gang violence frequently and saw the effects of gun violence firsthand. When she became the mayor of Parkland and the Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas school shooting occurred, Rep. Hunschofsky focused her efforts on bringing people together to recover emotionally and mentally. With her support, Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options (JAFCO) established Eagles’ Haven, a wellness center for the city, a year after the shooting. This ensured that after the immediate attention, media presence and support dissipated, citizens could continue to recuperate.
In her first year, Democrat Rep. Hunschofsky passed six bills last session in the House of Representatives, despite being in the minority party in the legislative body. She chose several bipartisan issues; for example, she created the Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Florida and presides as the Speaker of the House’s appointee on that commission.
Partisan politics means that Rep. Hunschofsky realizes not all of her bills on more controversial topics will pass. “It’s so interesting, because actually, a lot of people who you wouldn’t think agree with you do agree with you, but they think it’s such a political or hot topic, that they’re concerned about how to touch it properly,” Hunschofsky said. She clarifies that she focuses on the goals of her legislation rather than the exact language, and is willing to compromise on minor details for the greater good.
To conclude, Rep. Hunschofsky empowered students, explaining that they have the power to influence the world around them. She advised them on how to use words to propel their movements. “I love asking questions. When you ask people about their experiences, you connect with them,” Hunschofsky said.
The MFOL club meets every other Monday at 3:45 in Room 9205. Students can contact president Zoe Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. She plans to expand the club in membership and impact in the future.
“I’m planning on creating an organization that helps kids around my age who have been through gun violence and ways that they can cope long term after their initial support system kind of wanes,” Weissman said.