Less than a month ago, a 17-year-old with a handgun opened fire at Great Mills High School (GMHS), wounding 14-year-old Desmond Barnes and killing 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey. GMHS is a scant 10 miles from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), and its community is tightly interwoven with that of the college — many of our local students can call themselves alumni of the school, while many employees of SMCM have children who attend local public secondary schools. When news of the shooting broke out on the morning of March 20, it quickly made national headlines as another in a string of deadly school shootings and led to an on-campus Public Safety announcement advising students of the situation.
In the weeks following the GMHS shooting, students, faculty and staff have responded to the shooting in a number of ways. The SMCM chapter of InterVarsity, a Christian Fellowship group on campus (IVCF), embarked on an ambitious card-writing campaign, with the goal of putting a personal note of support in the hands of every Great Mills High School student as they began to return to school.
Editor’s Note: for other ways in which SMCM has responded to the tragedy at GMHS, please read the News article in this edition.
In various all-student emails, IVCF members wrote: “In the wake of the terrible incident that occurred at Great Mills High School on the 20th, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is presenting the campus with an opportunity to show the students of GMHS that the campus of SMCM supports them.”
During the week of March 26, IVCF members tabled at Campus Center and Schaefer Hall, supplying students with notecards and markers to write messages of “encouragement, love” and “support.” Cards were also collected via boxes in residence halls and other academic buildings.
Esteban Caballero and Emily Spears, ’18, led the letter-writing effort, along with other fellowship members and IVCF Team Leader Esrael Seyum.
Spears gave credit to Seyum in initiating the effort, though Seyum responded that “the entire InterVarsity community, especially the leadership team came together to make this happen.”
Spears added, “It was super important to us on the leadership team that we give as much encouragement and support to the GMHS students and everyone who works there, and this project seemed like the best way to do it that didn’t seem invasive, but was just a sweet gesture of community and support.”
Spears said the project took about two and half weeks to complete, including days of tabling and a few late nights of card-writing with IVCF members. The SMCM chapter collaborated with the InterVarsity chapter at the College of Southern Maryland, said Spears, as well as with SMCM faculty and staff. “There were no logistical problems, which was a complete blessing. It just took a lot of time, hard work and dedication to get all of the cards written.”
On Tuesday, April 10, Spears, Esteban and another IVCF member, Jonathan Hunt, ‘18 delivered 1,673 cards to Great Mills High School. The students also delivered cards meant for GMHS teachers and staff written by SMCM faculty and staff.
“It definitely would not have been possible without the help of St. Mary’s students taking the time to help write cards,” said IVCF member Caroline Robertson, ’18.
Seyum noted how proud he was of the SMCM community that came together to express support for GMHS students following the March 20 tragedy. “As InterVarsity, we are committed to showing God’s love to all people, especially to those who are hurting or are marginalized. We are proud in how quickly our SMCM community responded to make it happen.”