Girl Up unites SHS with their Vigil for Peace

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Girl Up unites SHS with their Vigil for Peace

The Girl Up Club poster made for the vigil. Photo taken by Tamara Strom.

The Girl Up Club poster made for the vigil. Photo taken by Tamara Strom.

The Girl Up Club poster made for the vigil. Photo taken by Tamara Strom.

The Girl Up Club poster made for the vigil. Photo taken by Tamara Strom.

Melissa Ellin, Editor in Chief

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It’s a blackout in the Lecture Hall. All eyes turn to the podium on stage where the only light comes from. The mood is somber, and a hush settles over the crowd, as they wait to hear what the first speaker has to say.

This is how Solon High School’s (SHS) Girl Up Vigil for Peace began on Thurs. Dec. 6. Mayor Edward Kraus, staff and students alike attended the event. It was clear from the introductory speech by Girl Up Officer Katherine Hartig that the event would be an emotional one. After Hartig, there were speeches from Girl Up Global Outreach Officer Kailey Gielink, Youth for Christ President Nathan (Nate) Leskovec and Girl Up President Rachel Zhou. Between speeches, officers from various SHS clubs chronologically named places in the US where mass shootings occurred, starting with Parkland, and then they had a moment of silence where a bell was rung. After the final speech and subsequent moment of silence, Girl Up officers Krittika Banerji and Praditha Behara gave a closing speech, thanking everyone for attending. On the way out, everyone signed their name on a large poster paper to symbolize their “pledge for peace.”

The idea for the vigil started in October when Gielink saw an upsetting news report.

“I came up with the idea and I brought it to [Girl Up Advisor Kelly Fishman] when the shooting at [Tree of Life] happened, and to me that just hit home because I was listening to the news, and I was like ‘This is the eighth one I’ve seen this week. This is ridiculous,”’ Gielink said. “And it was angering for me, so I was like ‘We have to do something about this.’ So I went to Fishman with the idea, and she was all for it, so then we started planning.”

As soon as Gielink proposed the idea, Fishman wanted to participate.

“I thought it was a really good idea because I think that what happens is that we have these really tragic events happen, and then we say something about them, and then we kind of forget about them, and we move on,” Fishman said.

From the start, Girl Up knew the vigil was about more than gun control. Gielink discussed the “epidemic of hate” in the world, and the beauty in diversity, Leskovec touched on coexistence regardless of religion and Zhou advocated for “peace and unity regardless of political affiliations.”

“Everybody understands that this [wasn’t] about ‘to have guns, or to not have guns,’” Zhou said. “[It was] about coming together and recognizing that this is about peace and spreading this idea that we aren’t inherently violent as people. We grow up in these places and because of environmental factors it can make someone violent, but we have to combat that with kindness, and have that hope.”

Fishman said the overall message Girl Up was trying to get across was the need for kindness and humanity.

“When you bump into somebody in the hallway, you don’t know what that person is struggling with,” Fishman said. “[It could be] mental illness, being beat up at home, not having enough to eat, struggling for whatever reason. When you bump into that person in the hallway, are you a jerk? Or are you like ‘Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry?’ Are you spreading kindness? Are you trying to be a good person? And, I think the more that we can spread that idea of peace and unity, and ‘Hey, we may all believe different things and come from different backgrounds, but let’s be here for each other as humans.’”

Girl Up plans to continue advocating for harmony in the future, starting with the posters that were made by clubs, and the poster signed by those at the vigil.

“…to make people remember that peace is very important, we’re going to put the pledge for peace posters up in the cafeteria, so students that haven’t gotten the chance, will get the chance to sign them, and you can see that every day and remember what you stand for and what you signed up for,” Gielink said.

Additionally, Girl Up has already made plans for the future to continue the altruism the vigil started.

“Our goal is to come back to this in February which is the one year anniversary of Parkland, but also is the month for random acts of kindness, so I’d like to talk to Mrs. Buemi about partnering with her club, Random Acts of Kindness, and trying to reinforce, any way we can, how we can continue to spread this idea of peace and unity,” Fishman said

With that being said, Zhou made it clear that the vigil should be a one-time occurrence.

“So, you asked if the Vigil for Peace would become annual, and my hope is it’s not, because we don’t want to see mass shootings occurring,” Zhou said. “Hate crimes have risen in the last two years of this administration, and that divide and polarization should not happen, because we all know as human beings, it doesn’t take a lot to be nice to someone else.”

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