Student Voices Against Gun Violence 

Pillars Preparatory Academy (South River, N.J.) students present their views on the challenges.

September/October 2022

Nour Choukrane (10th Grade)

After a series of devastating school shootings this year, my school, Pillars Preparatory Academy, decided to dedicate school time to addressing these unfortunate events. It started with a schoolwide assembly in which the students and staff were instructed on what to do in case of an emergency. We also learned about the issue of gun law reform. 

This was really important, because it helped relieve any anxiety that students may have felt after hearing about the shootings while also preparing themselves for the worst possible case scenario. Unfortunately, “the worst-case scenario” has become a reality in many U.S. schools. This can cause a lot of stress for students, especially when they aren’t sure about what to do in such a situation. Ignoring this reality certainly doesn’t help, and so I’m happy with the way Pillars decided to handle it. 

As most of these shootings are caused by the lack of gun restrictions, the school’s administrators decided to have each student, from third grade through high school, chose two senators and then write them a letter: one to thank the first senator for his/her for his/her advocacy, and to try and convince the second senator to act. A teacher-reviewed and then mailed the letters to the senators. 

I know that a lot of people think writing a letter won’t accomplish anything, and I did too at first. But then I realized if everyone did their part in some way, then eventually the senators would have to listen to the people they are representing. I also believe that as Muslims, our job is to fight for what’s right, instead of just sitting back while these incidents are happening right in front of our eyes. 

I’m happy that my school decided to do something about the injustice going on right now in the most appropriate way they could. As for the departed victims of the shootings, the school decided to allow students a chance to fundraise by letting them dress in orange to raise $5 to show they stood for gun reform. The money raised was then used to fund the letter-sending process as well as purchase a banner to show support for the victims. Any leftover money was donated to non-profit gun control advocacy groups. I think this was a great gesture, for it not only showed support for the victims and their families, but also unified the students of Pillars Prep for an important cause. 

The actions taken by my school helped me and many of my fellow students understand what is going on in the world and made us feel like we were working toward a better future and making a change. The school’s efforts not only prepared students and staff for any possible school shooting, but also helped make a difference in the world. 

Ayah Abbassi (9th Grade)

It’s no secret that mass shootings in the U.S. are on the rise and that this affects schools and public places. I, as a student and citizen, have been finding it more and more difficult to feel safe due to such events. This was until my school, Pillars Preparatory Academy, provided us with some very valuable information regarding the topic and how to stay safe if such an event occurs at our school.

Our school’s teachers and administrators have done their best to educate all of us students on school shootings and safety. They’ve taken the time out of their classes, and even their own personal lives, to prepare presentations and assignments to help us truly grasp why this issue is so important. One of the many activities that students took part in included writing to our senators about the topic. Everyone from grades three and up wrote two letters — one to a Democratic senator thanking him/her for his/her commitment, and one to a Republican senator in an attempt to convince him/her to do more in trying to resolve this issue. 

We’ve also been shown videos that gave us insights on how these events have so negatively impacted victims and their families. Without this wake-up call, many kids genuinely wouldn’t have been able to grasp how bad these shootings really are. Everyone just assumes that it could never happen to them, and that these sorts of things only ever occur on TV. But this really isn’t the case. We’ve gone over procedures, experimented with lockdown drills and have tried to prepare ourselves in case a true emergency happens. 

While shootings clearly involve and heavily affect the victims themselves, they also tend to impact many citizens. Some may be terrified to leave their homes, whereas others are simply just ignorant of the topic. People need to establish a middle ground: Every person should be able to go about his/her daily life without living in fear, but also be capable of remaining calm in case of an emergency so they can follow the relevant safety precautions. To reach this middle ground, one must be educated on the topic so he/she can understand every aspect of these shootings and remain safe if caught in such a situation. This, once again, reflects Pillars Preparatory Academy’s goal of teaching us about these mass shootings.

As you could probably tell, Pillars Preparatory Academy is a private Islamic school that strives to create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, students and staff. From properly helping us comprehend school shootings to providing us with regular and enjoyable school days, everything overall just runs smoothly. The school has the nicest staff and the friendliest students to create not only a comfortable learning space, but also a warm community. 

The teachers genuinely care about their students and help us create a bright and stable future for ourselves. If, for example, a student is falling behind, most teachers offer their free periods and breaks to help him/her better understand what he/she needs to know. This shows how much the teachers really want to help all of us. The level of respect that everyone holds for each other is what contributes so much to how well the school runs and how involved everyone is in the things that matter.

Pillars Preparatory Academy works to keep its students aware of what is happening in the world, and this is evident by how much they’ve contributed to educating us on school shootings. Without their assurance and hands-on activities, my fear of those dreadful situations would be so much greater.

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