One year later after the shooting and I'm still MSD Strong!

The One-Year Anniversary Of The Worst Event Of My Life Is Almost Here

I am MSD Strong!

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Months by months, weeks by weeks, days by days, hours by hours, minutes by minutes, and seconds by seconds tick down to that dreadful date and I freeze up. I haven't wrapped my head around the time just yet and I know that when the final seconds pass me by, all I will feel is heartbreak all over again. Fear, pain, tears, and sadness is what will await me when February 14th finally arrives. I won't be getting chocolate or flowers and happiness. I'll just be reminded of a horrible event that flooded through my city like a storm.

The mass high school shooting that took place at the end of the school day, on a day that was supposed to be filled with love and joy, was destroyed when Nikolas Crus decided to change our lives forever. Right down the street my friends had fought, hid, and ran for their lives while I was at home watching the madness on the news.

I remember texting all my friends to find out if they were safe and ok and not receiving a text message back for hours. I remember seeing videos all over social media. I remember seeing my neighborhood on the news and it clicked in my head that the monster was finally detained right behind my house. I remember the sorrow that filled the air which lasted for months after the shooting. I remember attending friends' memorials and their funerals as if it was ok or normal for someone to be killed at such a young age. It isn't. I remember all the new threats going around surrounding schools, including my own. I remember feeling terrified by going to school and when I did, my classes were empty. I remember break down after break down that I had and the people around me had.

It was a terrible tragedy; which it was so much more than that, but words cannot place what we felt and experienced that day, and we will never be the same. And now with less than a week until the one-year anniversary, I still can't understand or believe the fact that it's been a whole year. That it has been a year without the 17 beautiful lives that were taken a lifetime too soon. Fathers, brothers, sisters, children are gone with only a squeeze of a finger.

How can it come to that?

A life that holds so much meaning, taken with such a small little object shot from a distance?

It baffles me that life is so short and we can't control it.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time when life was simpler, or when I was naïve to all the terror in the world and just live and be happy. To be with those who were lost, to remember them for who they are and not the horrifying event that's the reason for them being gone. So, in memory of them and to remember who they are as people, not statistics or numbers. Here are Parkland's 17 angels and they are real!

Nicholas Dworet, an insanely talented swimmer who was committed to his next four years at the University of Indianapolis. And loved to listen to Aerosmith and the Beatles. My friend.

Peter Wang, a JROTC student who was always super kind to anyone, even if you were a stranger.

Scott Beigel, an amazing teacher and Cross-Country Coach whose passion was running and coaching his students to be the very best that they can be.

Alex Schachter, a boy who loved band and dreamed of playing for the University of Connecticut and always wore the same UConn hoddie.

Jaime Guttenberg, an incredible dancer who brought tears to your eyes just by watching her dance.

Luke Hoyer, a boy who loved to play basketball and never stopped playing and also never stopped eating chicken nuggets.

Aaron Feis, a big teddy bear! He loved everyone and was always there for the students. His newborn daughter should be one right about now.

Alyssa Alhdadeff, a skilled soccer player who you could always find at the beach because it was her second home.

Gina Montalto, an amazing performer for the school's Winter Guard and threw that flag with grace.

Martin Duque-Anguiano, a boy with a great sense of humor and was a big nerd for Star Wars!

Alaina Petty, a JROTC student who was following her brother's footsteps and had an extremely bright personality.

Helena Ramsay, an intelligent girl who loved to travel and was obsessed with K-Pop music!

Chris Hixon, the athletic director who loved all sports and supported every single team and cheered them on, on the sidelines.

Joaquin "Guac" Oliver, a boy who loved soccer, his family and friends and just became a U.S. Citizen.

Cara Loughran, a talented Irish dancer who loved the beach and her life was filled with so much beauty!

Carmen Schentrup, a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist, she was crazy smart and loved playing the piano.

Meadow Pollack, a brave and courageous girl who was super kind and was planning to become a lawyer at Lynn University.

Looking through this list, I am reminded that even though February 14this a horrible memory for what happened, I should celebrate the lives these wonderful people lived. They deserve extended happiness and that's what I'll strive for next week.

This should never happen to anyone else.

I am MSD Strong and I stand tall!

Thank you for reading my story and look out for my next story coming soon.

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31 Tips That Helped Me During Freshman Year Of High School

It can seem like an impossible task to start high school, but with a bit of advice, it's a lot of fun.
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Starting freshman year of high school can seem like a tough situation to be in, but it was actually so easy to do. High school is a lot of fun if you know what to do, which includes the following pieces of advice.

1. Know where your classes are located without needing a schedule.

The big switch from middle to high school was easier for me than moving from elementary to middle school, and one of the biggest reasons why is because I knew that memorizing the locations of my classes beforehand was extremely important. One of the biggest things that bugged me about starting high school was wondering whether or not I would successfully be able to locate each of my classrooms in the five minute breaks given in between classes. Prepare for that properly by looking at a map of your school and then figuring out the best routes to each class from the previous one.

2. Don't buy too many school supplies.

Yes, having everything with you seems great and all, but it's such a hassle to dig through infinite pens and glue sticks to find your pair of scissors. Don't be the one kid who's held up last because he or she can't find his or her supplies at the bottom of the pencil pouch. Just ask your teachers what you should have for each class, and bring that! You won't have to worry about not having everything for the class because you already asked your teacher.

3. Try to get enough sleep.

It sounds like fun to be able to sleep so late at night without getting in trouble, but when you have to wake up early in the morning to get to school, it's not fun at all. You want to get a solid eight hours of sleep to stay healthy, and many nights, looking at the hours pass by on the clock is discouraging. I still remember telling myself many nights, "There goes my chance at sleeping early tonight." Okay, it sounds tough to sleep early most nights, but if you just try and get your work done as soon as possible, it's a possibility you can head to bed by 10!

4. One test grade does not determine your whole future.

Don't worry about it so much. The occasional bad grade during a stressful time of the year is perfectly normal. Maybe you don't do so well at the start of the school year as you're trying to get into the gear of being in high school. That's fine! As long as you know that you're putting in the effort and trying your best to do well in school, you will do well!

5. Manage your time wisely, especially with extracurricular activities.

Schoolwork increases throughout the year, so make sure that when you designate time for each part of your life, so you don't spend too much time with extracurricular activities that you're swamped with schoolwork later on. It's unwanted stress that can be easily prevented if you know how much is too much work for you.

6. Figure out a plan for your high school career.

By this, I mean devise a flexible outline of what class schedule you want to have each year of high school. If possible, you can even take classes over the summer! By having a small picture of what you want your future to look like while you're still in school, you have a much easier time deciding what classes you prioritize above others. And when you're done with the schedule, you get to see where you think you're headed up to senior year.

7. Don't do too many extracurricular activities just to look good for colleges.

It's not worth it! You'd be putting way too much stress on yourself just to look good, and striving so hard for a good image can make you do poorly in school. Don't do that to yourself, please. Participate enough to be noticed, but don't do so much where you think that you'd have to be a superhero to accomplish all of your work by your deadlines. You're just starting high school, and that amount of work needs to be cut down.

8. Don't be someone who runs in the hallways.

They're just as annoying as slow walkers. Everyone is just trying to get to their classes, and those who run are just holding everyone else behind. Because of how crowded it is in the hallways, people can get hurt, too. Don't be one of those people who gets someone hurt just because you feel like running. The school is not big enough to make you unbelievably late to your classes, so don't act like it.

9. Know what you believe in, and prioritize that above all else.

High school will make you question some of your smallest values, and whether or not you choose to stick to your beliefs is up to you. But in a place where you will be extremely independent, you have to stand up for yourself. Don't make decisions that don't accurately reflect who you are in terms of morals just because you want to appeal to other people. Be smart! You have your morals and priorities for a reason, so now is the time to enforce them on yourself.

10. Take classes over the summer.

This is obviously optional if you don't feel like it, but I highly recommend it. As you go through high school, you're going to have to start thinking about what career pathway you want to get into. And because there are so many course options for career pathways, taking core classes over the summer that you're not interested in frees up your schedule to do what you really want to do during the year, That way, you may have a lot of work, but it's for a class that you want to take.

11. Being independent is a tough task that sometimes isn't fun.

Teachers and other students are not going to help you all the time. You're getting older, so you're expected to act like it. The freedom of having control over your own life is fun and thrilling, but with that same freedom, you can't rely on others all the time. That especially affects you when you make poor decisions about your school career and do your assignments late or incorrectly. That's on you, so make sure that you know that being an independent person means that you take full responsibility for your actions.

12. Don't compare yourself to others.

This is something basic that you have to understand. There are the select people that always want to compare scores with you, and it gets annoying. There are two reasons why you shouldn't be one of these people.

1. They're annoying and ask you for your score even if it's a bit intrusive.

2. Why compare yourself to others when it doesn't determine anything about you?

You could be putting yourself down for no reason. Don't compare your score to others' just because you want to measure yourself against them. That doesn't say anything about how you can improve yourself.

13. Make sure you know someone in your classes to ask questions.

You'll definitely have at least one question in each of your classes throughout the year, so knowing at least one person in each class and being able to contact them prevents you from messing up on an assignment.

14. Not everyone is going to be nice to you, and that is perfectly okay.

You won't be friends with everyone, which is completely normal. Just stay in your lane and keep doing what you're doing in school. Focus on yourself and not about what others think about you.

15. Make sure your backpack isn't filled with unnecessary objects.

This is to make sure that your backpack isn't super heavy. Don't leave stray papers or other things sitting at the bottom of your bag because they build up and either make you bag heavy or make it tough to stick other books or notebooks in there. You can easily avoid this by just maintaining organizational habits that prevent you from throwing papers anywhere you want if they don't belong somewhere in your bag. Save yourself the trouble of cleaning your bag out by just staying organized.

16. When teachers give you advice for an assignment, take it.

They are the ones who made the assignment, and they've been high schoolers before. They know exactly what is best for you when it comes to finishing an assignment they created. Listen to them because convincing yourself that only you know what's best for you is not how you should use your newly-gained freedom from adults. You're still young and need some guidance, so take whatever you can from them while they can help.

17. Have a go-to music playlist for late-night study sessions.

Obviously this part is up to you, but having a playlist full of songs that you like will make studying a bit more fun for you. Yes, classical music is proven to help you while studying, but you need to at least be comfortable with the music that you're listening to; if you don't like classical music, you should have the freedom to listen to what you want. Studying will go by a lot faster if you do this, and when you're done, you'll feel like the study session was much easier than it usually is.

18. The night before a test will be stressful, but you will get through it.

It's a big unit test, and you feel like you don't know half of the material you're studying. You've reviewed this in class, so you're going to be fine. Just review the material to the best of your ability, and when you've answered all of your questions, get as much rest as possible. It's just one test, and you will pass it if you at least study for it.

19. Don't cram for an exam the night before.

Going off the last one, you won't be as stressed the night before if you've studied for the test for a few days. It always feels like a test covers a lot of content, and you'll probably do better on the test if you don't cram everything in your head just one night before taking the test. Get yourself in the habit of being prepared a few days before so the night before is a simple review of the content before you head to bed.

20. Stay organized, even if you're not the best at it.

Being organized was important in middle school because it was much different than elementary, but since high school is a bit tougher, you need to be more organized. Always have a planner or calendar of some sort with you that tells you due dates and deadlines for assignments. That planner will become your life saver. You school might provide you a planner, but you can always buy one for yourself. Another good way to stay organized is if you get a locker in case you have a lot of books.

21. There are lots of deadlines, and you can feel overwhelmed at times.

It's a part of being in high school, so if you feel like you can't handle the numerous deadlines, you can. You have teachers, peers and family members that are there to help you if you need anything. Being in high school will be stressful at times, but if you are a good student and stay on top of your work, the days leading up to a deadline will be stress-free. Stay organized and prepared, and you will be rewarded.

22. Balance schoolwork with the rest of your life.

You have friends and family that you want to spend time with, so make sure that when you take your classes and do your work that you put off some extra time to spend with the people you enjoy. These people will help you throughout your years, so make sure that you give enough time to both working and having fun. After so much stress, you need some time to relax.

23. You will make mistakes that could have been prevented.

There's no doubt that freshman year won't be perfect. If you make a mistake by forgetting to do your homework or being late to class because you chose not to run in the hallway, it's OK! Let it go, and learn from it. Maybe you were doing too much the night before, so you didn't do all of your homework. Maybe you were talking to a friend instead of getting to class, so you were late. Learn from these experiences if they happen because they are ways to teach you to grow up and become responsible. It's all part of the high school experience.

24. Don't change who you are to impress others, even if it benefits you somehow.

It's a universal concept that goes for any situation, but just don't change yourself at all. You might want to attract the attention of a few people who you want to be friends with, but do it by being yourself. Most people aren't going to be mean to you for no reason, so even saying "hi" to someone new is nothing to worry about. Just don't try to be a different person for approval.

25. Get to know who your counselor is.

This person will help you with many of the concerns you may have. You can always ask him or her for help because they are there to help you. If you can't get help from a teacher or parent about a problem, going to your counselor is a good idea because they are meant to help high schoolers. Getting to know them allows them to become familiar with you and know who you are, too.

26. Keep your old friends close, but make a lot of new friends.

High school is much bigger than middle school, so a lot more people will be joining from other schools. Getting to know a bunch of people and making friends makes high school interesting instead of sticking with the same friend group. Lots of people end high school in a much different friend group than the one that they start high school with. Be social.

27. Utilize your Orientation Day to the best of your ability.

Orientation Day should be happening at your school, and it's a day that takes place less than a week before school starts. That's when you get a physical copy of your schedule and get to meet your teachers. Make the most of the time that you're at school. Ask your teachers what you need, locate your classes, get a locker if you want one, and get a feel for how your school looks. This is the big day to prepare for your new freshman year. If you don't know if you can go to Orientation Day, I really recommend doing your best to go.

28. Don't be afraid to ask for help from anyone.

It can be embarrassing to ask for help when so much pressure is placed on you for being independent, but remember that you are still just a freshman. You're really young and still don't know how the whole school works, so asking for help is completely acceptable and normal. Ask teachers where a class is if you can't find it, and ask friends or peers for help if you don't understand something. You're growing up, so asking for help is okay!

29. Summer work cannot put off until the last minute. Get it done.

Trust me, you may have a good time forgetting about your summer assignment, but when it comes time to actually do the work, you won't be too happy having to spend the last few days of your vacation doing it. Get the work done as quickly as possible so you can actually enjoy the rest of your summer break. Also, if you do the work at the end of summer, it will probably looked rushed. If you do it at the beginning of summer, you can do it quickly but still know that you have a lot of time to finish it.

30. Don't let one bad day ruin your week. You're doing great.

And bad days will come, even if you're a generally happy person. Sometimes a bad grade or a small fight with a friend can ruin your day, but remember that you're still growing up and that this is all a part of the learning experience. Take this as a lesson for the future, and don't let that bad day ruin the rest of your week.

31. Don't slack off just because it's freshman year.

Please, save yourself the pain of fixing your GPA years after now because you chose to say that it's only freshman year as an excuse to not do your work. It sounds wrong to just think that! Work hard during freshman year because that's the easiest that high school will be! It only gets tougher after that, and freshman year is your transition year. Use it to be one step ahead and have high grades!

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Having Guns Around Doesn't Make Me Feel Safe

Officials want to have laws that put guns in every place that I am supposed to feel safe, and yet, in every place there is a gun, I feel scared.

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According to SB 7030 (which must be passed by the House to be written into law), Florida teachers will be able to carry firearms under the "Armed Guardians" program. Teachers must undergo a psychological evaluation and training program to be able to carry their gun and districts must approve the program to introduce the program to the teachers, staff, students, and parents.

SB 7030 was introduced after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February of last year and had a total of twenty-two to seventeen votes to pass to the House. It would offered in applicable school districts and teachers would volunteer to take part in the program (including evaluations and training).

Although there has been eight school shootings since January 1, 2019, and there were twenty-four school shootings in 2018 (328 mass shootings total - almost one every day of the year) and according to the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, there were 94 school shootings involving guns - which is an increase of 59% since 2006 and a record high since 1970.

Officials want to have laws that put guns in every place that I am supposed to feel safe, and yet, in every place, there is a gun, I feel scared.

Elementary school is when I started learning about Code Red drills. In fifth grade, I remember hearing the principal announce a code red, and every child in my class rushing to the back of the classroom, voices completely silent. Soon, every drill was standard - once a month: fire drill, code red, lock-downs - and you don't think much of the threats that are "supposedly" in place.

Sandy Hook is the first time that I felt threatened in a school. In 2012, I was in eighth grade, halfway through the year and getting ready to move into high school - it's scary enough to be a freshman, I didn't think that this was something I would have to be worried about.

Our classrooms had the news on immediately - and I remember not learning much in history that morning, because really, I was watching history happen, and I would remember it. I remember everyone being silent, as every hour more children were being put into the hospital - or worse, their faces were on the television because their lives were lost to a someone with a gun. I remember someone saying, "Our parents saw Columbine happen, and now we're watching Sandy Hook. Kids are going to have this in a history book."

Kids are going to have this in a history book.

I sat in a classroom and watched twenty-six partners, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, learn that their spouse, their six and seven-year-old children had died by a human being with a rifle.

In my freshman year of college, a concert in Las Vegas became the deadliest mass shootings in United States history.

In my freshman year of college, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a high school three hours away from Orlando, became the place of one of the deadliest school shootings in United States history.

Seventeen students and faculty killed.

I have a younger brother. He's seventeen. He's going to be a senior in high school this year.

I don't understand how we are continuing to have this conversation.

I don't understand how after children are being murdered, there is no discussion on how to make gun control a priority.

I don't understand how the government can claim themselves to be "pro-life" when they aren't saving the lives that are going to be the future of this country that everyone believes to be so great.

I don't understand how abortions are becoming illegal faster than an assault rifle.

I am sick of this. I am sick of having to fight with adults about how a gun, how an automatic weapon that can kill dozens of innocent children and adults in minutes is not banned.

I don't feel safe. I don't feel secure.

I don't feel like my professor is going to be able to kill an armed shooter in a nanosecond when they start shooting in a classroom.

I don't feel like one training is going to be enough.

I don't feel like psychological testing is enough.

I. Don't. Feel. Safe.

I don't care about how much you need a gun. I don't care how you think that the Constitution is right.

THE CONSTITUTION WAS WRITTEN BY MEN THAT HAD TO RELOAD THEIR GUNS WITH EVERY BULLET. THEY DIDN'T HAVE BUMP-STOCKS THAT ALLOW A SEMI-AUTOMATIC TO BECOME AN AUTOMATIC AND MURDER FIFTY-EIGHT PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONCERT.

I, literally, don't care.

I refuse to be in a classroom where there are guns. I refuse to be in a place where any individual can carry a gun, with the possibility that there was no psychological testing and safety training. I refuse to be in a society where mass shootings have become so normal, that we are almost immune to seeing that there was an act of gun violence anywhere.

Only mass shootings in schools, religious sanctuaries, and public places are publicly announced, too.

Our society's media sources don't discuss how many suicides are completed by guns. Outlets don't discuss how easy it is for someone that is mentally unstable to access and buy firearms.

Once a mass shooting occurs, everyone wants to blame the mental illness and create such a stigma around mental health that you can't even mark down that you have a mental illness without "warning" employers of possible instability.

STOP USING MENTAL ILLNESS AS AN EXCUSE FOR SICK AND TWISTED INDIVIDUALS TO USE WEAPONS AND KILL PEOPLE.

NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS.

I don't care what you think the Second Amendment is trying to say.

It's outdated. It's an excuse to continue using weapons that are created for mass destruction and shouldn't be in an environment that is meant to be a safe space.

We can agree. We can disagree. However, I think that everyone should come to a common ground in believing that there is something wrong with the system. How is there ever an opportunity for someone to use a semi-automatic rifle? How is there ever use for a rifle that can kill dozens of individuals - children - at a time?

Don't have an answer?

Good. It's because there isn't one.

Our government uses the Constitution as an excuse to have ugly behavior. Our government claims to be "pro-life" but won't take away the thing that kills thousands of people every year. Our government claims to have the interest of the people but takes no precaution to listen to what the people want.

I'm scared of guns. I'm scared of people who have guns. I don't feel safe where there are guns around.

Guns don't and won't ever make me feel safe.

One could hope that someone is finally going to realize that.

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