Student activists honor Columbine victims, share experiences

Samantha Ye

Students talk while sitting behind a desk in Clark A.
Haley Ratcliff, Wout Bouckaert and Allie Holton hold a discussion about mental health and gun violence at the Columbine Shooting Memorial Rally and Vigil in the Clark A building on April 20, 2018. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: Wout Bouckaert currently works for Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation as a variety show producer for Collegian TV.  

On the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, Never Again Northern Colorado, a bipartisan group of student activists, hosted a community memorial and discussion.

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The event started with a reading of the names of the 15 Columbine victims, followed by a moment of silence.

Due to lower turnout than expected, the event then shifted to a mostly informal forum, where students shared their experiences and activism regarding gun violence in schools.

CSU students Wout Bouckaert, undeclared freshman, and Haley Ratcliff, senior health and exercise science major, along with Allie Holton, a junior at Poudre High School, sat on the forum.

Bouckaert emphasized the fact that gun violence is not limited to mass shootings which tend to get more attention.

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention counted 38,658 deaths due to firearms, averaging nearly 106 deaths per day. Almost two thirds of all firearm deaths are suicides, according to an analysis of CDC data by FiveThirtyEight.

“This is something I feel should be brought out more, because I thought, we hear only about the big tragedies where multiple people are killed in the same instance, but this is an ongoing, continuing issue that leads to suicide, homicide and accidental gun deaths as well as mass shootings,” Bouckaert said.

Holton relayed her experiences as a student, for which the possibility of a shooting, never really goes away.

Poudre School District schools go through multiple active shooter drills each year, where students practice hiding and blockading classroom doors.

PHS went through one such surprise drill on the same day the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. happened, Holton said. 

“We were all huddled in the corner of the auditorium…and we all thought we were gonna die,” Holton said. “That was not one of the greatest Valentine’s Days. And, half an hour later, I found out that it really happened in Florida.”

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Holton had been instrumental in organizing the Poudre School District student walkout. Due to her involvement, Holton’s classmates advised her to sit near closets or near exits in classrooms because they feared she would be targeted in the event of a shooting.

A woman talks from a podium.
Rachel Grohs speaks at the Columbine Shooting Memorial Rally and Vigil in the Clark A building on April 20, 2018. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Also invited to speak at the event were Rachelle Delich and Rachel Grohs, founder and co-founder of UTURN, a recently formed non-profit specializing in connecting children who have experienced trauma with dedicated mentors.

Delich, who has mentored others before, said she noticed most all of school shooters had attachment issues partnered with lack of proper guidance.

UTURN is meant to be a preventative in that sense, giving kids who have had traumatic experiences guidance from people who overcame similar situations, so they do not turn to similar acts of violence.

Delich and Grohs started the organization after the Parkland shooting as a way to truly do something about the problems they saw.

“This is our amends to you, (the students),” Delich said.

After the event, Karen Manely, a junior at Fossil Ridge High School and part of the student walkout organizing team, said forums like these were important to gaining the support of the community and working to fulfill everyone’s needs.

“This is meant to bring together the polarized, whether it be (people) polarized by politics, by religion by age, anything,” Manely said. “If you’re polarized, you’re not going to make any progress, and through these and forums such as these, we will make progress.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.