Hokies organize initiatives for Newtown
Amid cups of coffee and hours of studying in the library, some Virginia Tech students took time out of during their week of final exams to reach out to families affected by the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Two major responses were organized: An estimated 1,000 or more students signed their names and left notes on a giant paper banner; and a website, HokieHopeForSandyHook.Tumblr.com reposted encouraging messages from Tech students online.
Several students helped organize the effort.
One, Nick Onopa, a senior public and urban affairs major and the undergraduate representative to Tech’s Board of Visitors, assisted in making the banner available to students to sign so it can be sent to Newtown.
The banner was in front of D2 dining hall on Saturday afternoon. It made its way to a few different religious groups and stayed in Squires Student Center for several days.
Onopa said he thought at least 1,000 students, if not more, had signed the banner, which was composed of four long sheets of white paper. Last week, two sheets were still out for students to write on. They seemed full, but Onopa said the first two sheets of paper had no white space left on them whatsoever, so two more sheets were needed.
The banner was located in the hallway near a large lecture hall that seats 650 students. Onopa said on Wednesday he had seen at least 10 different exam groups come out of the hall since Monday, with many students stopping to sign the banner after their exams. Others dropped by on their way home at the end of the semester or while on campus turning in assignments.
Onopa said he facilitated the banner signing because he was already finished with his exams and he was able to make sure students had enough markers to write with.
“I don’t want personal fame for doing this,” he said. “I just want to make sure we send our thoughts and prayers to the people in Newtown.”
Onopa said he was glad there was one large banner instead of many physical things.
He recalled the large amount of physical gifts sent to Tech after the April 16, 2007, campus shooting and said he didn’t want to overwhelm the people of Newtown with things.
“We just want to let them know we’re thinking of them and let them know they’re in our prayers,” he said.
Michael Kulikowski, a fifth year senior architecture major, and his friend Ben White, a fifth year senior industrial and systems engineering major, took to the Internet with a similar intention of sending out positive messages to people affected by the shooting in Newtown.
They created the website HokieHopeForSandyHook.Tumblr.com, as well as a Facebook group that has the same name.
Kulikowski said he and White were partially inspired to put together a website because one of White’s friends had been a student involved in creating a response website last year after the Dec. 8, 2011, Tech campus shooting of campus police officer Deriek Crouse.
“In that moment, watching the news, I was overcome by the magnitude of the situation,” Kulikowski said. “I was actually in the middle of writing a paper, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to do something, I felt like I needed to do something.”
Kulikowski said he wanted the site to focus more on messages of hope. Any user can go to it and submit a message of hope by clicking on the “submit” link.
The site is also linked to the United Way’s Sandy Hook School Support Fund website, which users can access by clicking on the “hope” link.
Kulikowski said he hopes to potentially turn the submissions in a printed volume to send to Newtown. For now, anyone can go online to view or send in a message.
Kulikowski said he reached out to Newtown, Conn. with messages of hope because “I felt compelled to do something.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-1662
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