Seymour Middle School sixth-graders write letters to Florida school


Expecting the return to classes to be difficult for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Diane Wolk-Rogers wanted to help them move forward.

The teacher at the Parkland, Florida, school, where 17 people were killed during a Feb. 14 shooting, went to Facebook asking for letters of support.

She didn’t want emails or texts. Instead, she thought receiving handwritten letters would help the students heal from the horrific event.

“I want them to hold the envelopes addressed from around the world to see that they are not alone and there is still kind and caring people in this world,” Wolk-Rogers said in her post, which also included the school’s mailing address.

Lisa McCory, a language arts teacher at the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center, came across the post and thought it would be a good activity for her students.

It was an optional assignment, but she was happy to see more than 75 students write letters.

“What surprised me was the compassion and the kindness of their words because they are sixth-graders,” she said. “I got goosebumps. I read them, and they were good. … They were just writing from their hearts.”

Students in her four classes wrote letters Monday, and they were mailed that day. McCory also included a letter to Wolk-Rogers saying the Seymour students were very eager to write the letters to send their thoughts and prayers to the high-schoolers.

“My students are so worried the letters might not reach you by your first day back to school on Wednesday; however, I assured them they will mean just as much if they receive them any day this week,” McCory wrote.

She said some students didn’t understand everything that happened at the school, but many of them did after watching news coverage.

“Many have followed the news coverage and know that many of your students are fighting hard to be sure this doesn’t happen at any other school,” McCory wrote. “Through our discussions, though, I know they know it could happen anywhere, even here in Seymour, Indiana.”

McCory told Wolk-Rogers she is in her thoughts and prayers as she also returns to the school.

“We won’t forget what you have gone through, and we wish you the best as you finish this school year,” McCory wrote.

She also said her students hope the high-schoolers will keep up the fight in talking with politicians and trying to help change the laws in the United States so this type of tragedy doesn’t happen again.

Finally, McCory included some facts about Seymour, including it being the hometown of musician John Mellencamp and 2009 Miss America Katie Stam, noting her father, Keith Stam, is the Sixth Grade Center’s choir director.

Sixth-grader Shayla Thompson said it was important to her to write a letter.

“I know that if it can happen in Florida, it can happen here,” she said. “I have three or four cousins that are in the high school here, and it would drive me crazy if one of them were hurt or anything happened to them.”

In her letter, Shayla included a personal note.

“I told them they are not alone and the whole country is praying for them and they are in our thoughts,” she said.

Sixth-grader Nick Bowman said earlier this year, the school’s active shooter alarm accidentally went off when he was in the library. For a moment, students and staff didn’t know if it was a drill, real or accidental.

“I know how it feels when that alarm goes off,” he said. “My heart just sank.”

Seeing on the news that it was a real situation at the Florida school, Nick said he felt called to write a letter of support when McCory proposed the assignment.

“I wrote that we feel sorry for their loss and the stuff that has been going on at their school,” he said. “It’s just to make them feel better because I can’t imagine what it would feel like to lose your friend at school.”

Sixth-grader Ellye Schrink also wanted to write a letter after hearing about the school shootings that have happened this year.

“I want them to know they are not the only person who has been through a shooting because there are other people who have been through shootings,” she said.

It was important for her to show compassion to the students affected by the tragedy in Florida.

“I just did it because I wanted to be nice,” Ellye said.

Sixth-grader Olivia Hendrix also wanted to let the students know they are not alone.

“Even though we don’t know if they are a boy or a girl or what they look like that we do love them, and I included that they can get past this,” she said.

She thought it was important for Seymour students to show they care.

“I definitely felt like the community was coming together to do something extremely nice for this school,” Olivia said.

Sixth-grader Lucas Vanlerberghe wrote in his letter to the high-schoolers that they are brave and strong.

“It was sad that someone shot students and teachers,” he said. “We are showing our support for those who have lost others.”

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