There are so many wonderful things happening for Connectopod right now. But how do we even begin to talk about, think about, anything other than Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? If you work with kids, have kids of your own, or deal with kids in any way, you marvel at how they can go to school and concentrate at all. You marvel at how you can send your own kid off to school at all. You feel the crackling buzz of your fears under everything you do until you see them walk through the door again. I volunteer in the office of my kid's high school, I involuntarily imagine every gangly teen face and awkward mini adult body in a news montage of victims. Every unexpected loud voice or bang of a door makes everyone look up and account for a hiding spot while continuing a conversation. We persevere. We persist. We reject this as our new normal.
It makes sense that the teen activists born in the crucible of the unthinkable at their school are the ones to lead us out of our national catatonic gun madness. The very name of their school honors a civil & environmental rights activist, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who used her skill as a journalist to speak truth to power even when it was dangerous or seemed impossible to win. Read about her. Her legacy of compassion and intelligence is being lived out in the students like Brandon Abzug, Delaney Tarr, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Emma Gonzales, Jaclyn Corin, Alex Wind, and the growing number of teens, both survivors and supporters, joining the ranks of a powerful movement in the making.
I love and admire every one of them. They inspire me to fight harder. Connectopod teaches kids that their point of view is valuable. That they are valuable. We teach them to "Reach out. Speak out. Turn needing into leading." We use our curriculum to reach kids who are struggling with challenges, be it poverty, or learning disabilities, or behavioral issues. We connect and engage. As the students work on segments they connect to something other than their worries. When they are busy creating a podcast, they dwell less on what they don't have, or can't do and focus on just making things happen. By the time they look up for a moment, they see they are leading and taking the first steps on a path to better place for themselves.
The shooter last week, whom I intentionally refuse to name, had a crappy life: abandoned and adopted and abandoned again. Domestic abuse. Isolation. At 19 he took his rage homicidal. Marjory Stoneman Douglas started out in a crappy life with a mentally disturbed mother and an absent father. What makes the difference? Why do some descend into darkness and some become champions of others? The ability to speak out. To Connect. If we offer empathy earlier, we can reach kids before they can't be.
I am in awe of The Activists of the MSD Never Again Movement. They had every right to crawl into a corner and lick their wounds. I might have. They embody what we, at Connectopod, are striving to offer our students. Empowerment. Our tag line is "You have a voice, kid. Use it!" The activists of Marjory Stoneman High School definitely are.