A group of students in Euharlee has sent its love, concern and prayers 678 miles south to a school that is hurting.
Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Woodland Middle School spent two days last week writing messages to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, to let them know they have a lot of people supporting them as they try to recover from the shooting that took the lives of 17 classmates and teachers.
“A fellow educator from across the state sent me a message from his Twitter account that read ‘Help the #stonemanHS return: They need banners of encouragement to line the halls,’” sixth-grade language artsteacher Cindy Schwartz said.“So I thought it would be a wonderful gesture to be a part of welcoming those students as they return to their school after their terrible tragedy. I thought that maybe we could be some small part of their healing process by knowing that students across the country are thinking of them.”
Schwartz said students originally planned to write notes directly on the large banner, but they decided to write individual messages on sticky notes and affix them to it.
“That way, students in Parkland can take one of the messages from the banner and keep it for themselves,” she said.
The “To Parkland, Love Woodland” project began Tuesday with students writing “messages of support, encouragement and inspiration” on sticky notes at a table set up during their lunch period, Schwartz said.
“All students in the school were invited to participate,” she said, noting some students “just kept wanting to write more and more” notes. “In the end, about 300 messages were created.”
The students wrapped up the project Wednesday by creating the banner with the sticky notes.
“On the second day, the students in my lunch class chose to eat lunch in the classroom and place the sticky notes on the banner,” Schwartz said. “They were very particular about how it looked and where the messages were positioned.”
The banner designers also placed a large red heart in the center with a note – “Dear Friends at Stoneman Douglas High School, The students of Woodland Middle School in Euharlee, Georgia, wish to send our deepest sympathies for your loss. We have written our best wishes on a sticky note. Take one and know that someone in Georgia cares for you.”
“It’s our hope that the students of Stoneman High School will take the notes and keep them,” Schwartz said. “They might want them to be bookmarks or keepsakes to remind them that other students are thinking of them.”
The note also included a map of Georgia “with the location of Euharlee identified and a picture of our school,” she added.
The completed banner was mailed to the Parkland school Friday.
Schwartz said she thinks the students “struggled with exactly what to write” on their sticky notes.
“Some simply wrote their names,” she said. “That was just fine – it represents a student who cares. Others just didn’t know quite how to articulate their thoughts and feelings. It’s tough to know what to say in a time like this. But most of the students just sent simple messages like ‘Stay strong,’ ‘We are praying for y’all,’ ‘We love you’ and ‘Woodland cares.’”
Jacob McDaniel, 12, said the shooting was “horrifying to everyone in the school and their families.”
“I felt like I and many others needed to comfort them with our words and posters, so that is what I and many others did,” he said. “If I could say something to the devastated families, I would say that everyone is praying for y'all.”
Twelve-year-old Breanna Chapman said she wanted to write a message because they “needed to know that they are not alone.”
Reagan Weightman’s message was "Be brave. Stay strong. We are praying for you."
“I wanted to send my message to the students of Parkland because I thought, ‘What if this happened to our school?’” the 12-year-old said. “I would want to have words of encouragement from other students and schools around the nation.”
Knox Koontz, 12, said the tragedy was “terrible, and I want them to know that they aren’t alone and that they have my support.”
Sending a message that said “Stay positive during these hard times,” 12-year-old Lili Womack said she “wanted them to see that people love them all over the country, and especially, we love them in Georgia.”
Adriana Arteaga, who wrote more than one message, said Woodland students were “sending love and care from Georgia to Florida.”
“I wanted to send a message to [Stoneman] Douglas High School to show my affection to every single one of the students going back to school,” the 11-year-old said. “I hope at least one of the students in Parkland get to read one of my messages.”
Schwartz hopes the project will accomplish two goals.
“I hope our students have had an opportunity to be more compassionate and the students in Florida will find a [sliver] of sunshine in the midst of their sadness,” she said.
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