This is the reality of school shootings. Riley C. Howell, 21, a former high school soccer goalie, and student at the University of North Caroline at Charlotte, sacrificed his own life by lunging himself at a gunman who opened fire in a classroom.

Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year old senior, who attended STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, was a four year robotics member at his high school. He sacrificed his life, and was killed by taking down a gunman, along with three other students who were injured. Kendrick was supposed to graduate from high school three days later.

This is the reality of school shootings.

These students are known to be "heroes," for sacrificing their lives and preventing many other lives from being lost. These two incidents happened within just a week of one another. Both deaths occurred in a school environment, both heroes were students, and both died the same way. These deaths occurred within just a week of one another, on different sides of the country, at different schools, and to different people. From Columbine, to Virginia Tech, to Sandy Hook Elementary School, to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to Riley's school and Kendrick's school, as well as countless others, the immediate actions being taken now are from students, like myself and the many other peers we know.

This is the reality of school shootings, in the 21st century. Students now risking their lives for the protection of others. This should not be our reality, knowing these names from an event resulting in their deaths, or wondering "will it happen here." The reality is that these situations can happen anywhere. School is and should be a place of safety and security, an environment in which these thoughts and troubles should be congested with the lessons learned and the conversations of and about our world. School shootings should not be a reality.

There is a psychological aftermath of surviving school shootings, that includes long-term effects on mental health, academic performance, and economic achievement. Students become scared of classrooms, develop severe depression and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and survivor's guilt. They traumatize and leave wounds on the families of those killed, the students, and American society for the rest of their lives.

There must be stricter gun control, more effective efforts to strengthen background checks and limit and the spread of military-style weapons. These laws and regulations can be changed by the representatives we vote for. Your vote can make a difference, and voting for those who are in support of gun control and gun reform laws can change the reality of school shootings that we are living in today.

Vote for the lives of the numbers of children and students lost in school shootings. Vote for a reality that does not have students risking and sacrificing their lives for others. Vote for Riley and Kendrick.