When students and parents walked out of a vigil last night that had been planned in remembrance of Kendrick Castillo, the student who was tragically killed in the recent shooting at STEM School in Highlands Ranch, it provided a stark lesson for those of us who work in media, policy and communications.
Students who left the event, which took place just days after the shooting, did so to protest what they said was the politicization of the recent tragedy.
Several Colorado political leaders and advocates spoke at the event. Many kids and parents felt the focus on gun control was ill-timed and did not honor those who had come to the event wanting to focus on Castillo, their brave fallen friend and classmate.
While many of us support the need for common sense gun control, we need to balance that and the unfortunate, repeated opportunities to engage on this issue with communities’ legitimate need to mourn.
Increasingly, we also need to recognize that kids are vastly more aware, connected and capable of leading than we give them credit for.
Just more than a year ago, student leaders undertook a massive effort to organize the March for Our Lives following the Parkland, Florida shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Undoubtedly, such powerful movements will be what ultimately creates the political will for real change to take place.
In these and other instances, adults may be able to help most by providing our kids with the support they need, then getting out of the way and watching them lead.
In the meantime, we need to look beyond the incidents and statistics and remember these are real kids, real families, and real communities that need to mourn before they can possibly, if ever, heal.
We all are heartbroken by these repeated tragedies in Colorado and around the country. Many of us will find ways to lead our efforts or those of our clients to advance policy measures that can help to make a difference.
But, despite our sorrow, anger and desire for solutions, we must remember the raw emotions felt by those most closely impacted and, when they’re ready, follow their lead.