Santa Fe High School alumni leave positive mark after shooting

Students started organization advocating for kindness and mental health

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

SANTA FE, Texas - May 18, 2018, is a date that will forever have an impact in the small town of Santa Fe.

It is the date a lone student gunman took the lives of 10 people. However, in addition to the darkness of loss there is the vibrancy of strength, and it is apparent in the actions of the Santa Fe students who are determined to change their community for the better.

'In a matter of 30 minutes, my life changed'

Tokens of love and signs of #SantaFe strong can be found all over the city with a population of around 13,000. At one local church not far from the high school, 10 white crosses lay outside, adorned with memories of the eight fallen students and two teachers who died.

Grace Johnson, 19, was a senior when the shooting happened. She remembers the shooting as if it were yesterday.

"I look back at my Facebook memories and my SnapChat memories, and it's hard for me to look at that," Johnson said. "In a matter of 30 minutes, my life changed."

Annabelle O'Day, 18, remembers those long minutes vividly when gunfire infiltrated their place of learning.

"Last year on the 18th, I was a senior and that was my last day of high school," O'Day said.

"I did not want to go to school. I just think about the choices that I made that day," Johnson said.

Hearts United for Kindness

The choices Johnson and O'Day made after the shooting revolved around building their community up.

"Right away from that point, I wanted to do something good," O'Day said. "Because you can never change what people do to you, you can only change how you respond."

O'Day, Johnson and several other students who went to Santa Fe created the nonprofit organization called "Hearts United for Kindness."

"Hearts United for Kindness is an organization promoting acts of kindness," O'Day said. "So (Thursday) night, for example, we gave out 10 $1,000 scholarships to Santa Fe High School seniors, and the essay prompt was just, 'What's the greatest act of kindness you've ever done?'"

"Spreading kindness -- I think that goes a long way because no matter what's going on in your life, you can go out and open a door for someone or you can smile at someone or you can pay for someone's drink. You never know what's going on in someone's life and how your actions are going to affect them," Johnson said.

Hearts United for Kindness also focuses on mental health and wellness. 

"When it comes to the mental health side of things, we want to make sure that everybody out there knows the resources available. So we share things on our Facebook because we want everybody to know that the Resiliency Center is there for them."

Battle of the Bands Fundraiser

Hearts United for Kindness is organizing a Battle of the Bands Fundraiser from 4 to 9 p.m.  June 8 at Three Acres Park in order to raise money for scholarships and the organization.

"It's really going to be a family fun day. We want to bring not only Santa Fe but the whole Greater Houston community together," O'Day said.

"We want to bring more communities into the loving and positive environment that our community has," Johnson said.

They said they need support.

"We're still open to more bands signing up and vendors, too," O'Day said.

Day of Remembrance and Resilience

School at Santa Fe was optional Friday. Student activities were planned and Friday was deemed a Day of Remembrance and Resilience. There was a tree dedication ceremony. School officials and students planted a tree to represent peace and strength. Officials said the tree would stand with several others, which would represent those who passed away and those who are injured.

Johnson and O'Day said they hope students and the community focus on the positive.

"I hope that they continue to build each other up," Johnson said.

Saturday Events

It Takes a Tribe Kickball Tournament

10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Runge Park -- 4605 Peck St., Santa Fe

City of Santa Fe's Resiliency Day: Remembering Angels

The event will be held at the Galveston County Fair Grounds from 2-7:45 p.m., culminating in a candlelight vigil.

More info: Click here
Link to events: Click here

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