When Lynne Pravda heard about the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, one of the first thoughts to pop into her head was how could she help.
“There’s nothing we can do to make it (better),” Pravda, an art teacher at Memorial Junior High School, recalled thinking. “But what can we do to show that we care?”
On Dec. 17, when students at Memorial returned to school for the first time since the tragic shooting, Pravda told each one of her nine classes that their scheduled curriculum had been changed and they would be making cards to show their support to the community of Newtown.
Principal Anthony Mignella began the Dec. 17 school day with a moment of silence for the victims in Newtown and urged teachers and students to show their support to the hurting Connecticut community. He said Pravda and her approximately 250 students didn’t hesitate to act.
Students in grades seven through nine each wrote heartfelt messages to the community of Newtown and drew a picture on the front of their respective cards. Seventh grader Ayana Bisnar drew an angel on her card and wrote, “I am terribly sorry and I wish I could do more for you, but please know my thoughts go out to all of you. My heart mourns along with you, as well as hundreds of others. Know you are not alone, I am here with you.”
“Look up at the stars for your little angels because they’re always looking at you,” Janay Jackson, a fellow seventh grader, wrote. “Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t survive in your hearts. They will always love you and they will always know you love them back.”
Mignella, who heard students read their cards aloud for the first time while meeting with the Herald on Dec. 19, said it was very touching experience. “It’s nice to see the students at this young age, 11, 12 years old, being able to relate and show support for those families,” he said.
Seventh grader Angie Rubio shared her card and said, “They are angels and they will protect you. I hope this card will make you feel better and God bless you.”
Pravda said the students drew pictures on the covers of their cards to put smiles on the faces of the people of Newtown and to show them that they care. She was proud of the students’ drawings, but added that she also loved reading what was on the inside. “These kids wrote such beautiful things,” she said. “I was amazed.”
John Squadrito, an assistant principal at Memorial, took the cards to Newtown on Dec. 22. He wanted to make sure the cards got to the right place and had already planned on making a trip to Newtown to show his support. “Above and beyond the artistic value that they have,” he said of the students’ cards, “it was just the emotional piece, the sincerity and the pouring out of emotions that they had.
“When you’re dealing with seventh, eighth and ninth graders sometimes you feel they may not be contact with their emotions,” Squadrito added, “but from reading the cards it’s definitely emotional.”
The week of Dec. 17-21 was Memorial’s Spirit Week. On the final day of the week, students were supposed to wear the school colors of blue and white, but instead, Mignella and his staff thought it would be appropriate for everyone to wear green and white, the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.