GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the students who was wounded in and forever scarred by last year’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, spoke at Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus Wednesday.
Seventeen Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff members died when a student gunman opened fire on Feb. 14, 2018.
Samantha Fuentes, who still has shrapnel in her legs and behind her right eye after being shot, told an audience of hundreds in Grand Rapids Wednesday that she is speaking out about the need for change so that no more lives are lost.
“My survival, I often have to say, is a privilege,” Fuentes said.
She joined a GVSU panel to field questions on school safety and gun violence during the “Safe Environments for our Schools” event hosted by the GVSU College of Education.
The progress in her recovery is undeniable, but there are still mental, emotional and physical scars.
“Nothing can stop the tears, nothing can stop the pain or erase the memory of what happened February 14th,” Fuentes said. “I will live with it for the rest of my life.”
The event featured a short documentary that spurred conversation about arming teachers with guns. A panel that included Fuentes and GVSU professors then fielded questions.
Kellie Corbett is a Grand Valley State University senior who is studying to become a teacher. She said the evening event was timely.
“It’s happening. Kids are dying in the United States and we need to talk about it,” Corbett said after the event.
The questions were wide-ranging and so were some of the opinions in the room, but students told 24 Hour News 8 that they believe these tough conversations could save a life.
“They (Parkland survivors) had this terrible, terrible thing happen to them and that is what made them speak up, but we don’t all need a terrible thing to happen to us to make us speak up,” Corbett said.
“I was never made to be an activist. I was never equipped to get injured in a shooting. I was never really made to be on this stage,” Fuentes told the crowd, but explained she wants to spur positive change.
Fuentes is currently traveling the country to share her message. She also works with Angel Faces, a nonprofit working with girls who have experienced trauma.