Santa Fe High School Students Form Nonprofit 2 Weeks After Deadly Shooting

Jun 1, 2018
Originally published on June 4, 2018 8:19 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's been exactly two weeks since the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, that killed 10 people. And today the seniors of Santa Fe High School will graduate. Among them is Bree Butler. We first talked with her here on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on the day of the shooting. She was sitting in history class when she heard a commotion and then gunshots. She was still in shock when we interviewed her, but she was already thinking about how the shooting might redefine her high school experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BREE BUTLER: It defines my senior year, sure. But I'm not going to let it define it in a negative way. I really don't think that it's completely set in yet, that this is my high school. Like, you hear all of these news things, but then it actually happens to you, and it's crazy.

KELLY: Bree Butler talking there on May 18. And she joins us again today. Hey there, Bree.

BUTLER: Hi.

KELLY: Hi. So I was going to start by saying happy graduation day. But it just feels like the wrong words to say happy anything to somebody who's been through what you've been through, which prompts me to wonder - has that been hard, just trying to figure out the right words to use with each other these last couple weeks?

BUTLER: Yes and no. It's obviously not normal at all. But it is still a celebration today. So happy is OK.

KELLY: Good. Well, happy graduation then.

BUTLER: Thank you.

KELLY: Tell me what these last couple of weeks have been like. I know they just reopened the school a couple of days ago. Is that right?

BUTLER: Yes. We went back on Tuesday. But my friends and I have started a nonprofit called the Orange Generation.

KELLY: The Orange Generation. And what does that refer to?

BUTLER: Orange is the color for gun violence awareness and prevention. Our goal is to help fund survivors' medical bills, their physical therapy, their PTSD counseling, their surgeries, things like that, support candidates that support gun reform and maybe even write our own. We'll see where all that goes. It's all still, you know, in the very, very, very beginning stages.

KELLY: Thinking about writing gun control legislation, starting a nonprofit - sounds like you have had a really different last two weeks of high school than thinking about exams and thinking about prom. I'm thinking about, you know, the kind of non-stop party that is usually the last two weeks of high school. Has that been completely thrown out the window by what happened?

BUTLER: My last day ever at high school was a memorial service. Wednesday, I was in Denver at a dinner with a candidate for governor, Mike Johnston, and a lot of other people who have spoken out on gun reform, you know, just having healthy conversation. And it was really nice experience except that I missed, you know, my senior walk and that kind of thing, which - to me this is the most important thing right now. So I don't regret missing that. But this has definitely changed my last two weeks of high school.

KELLY: I want to ask you about what's happening in the state of Texas. Republican Governor Greg Abbott held a series of listening sessions, and he's rolled out a plan that would involve adding more armed guards to school, taking more efforts to try to identify students who might be at risk for violence. Do you see what he's proposing as the right way forward?

BUTLER: That's hard to say.

KELLY: Yeah.

BUTLER: Pretty much arming teachers is like saying, we've given up. We know there's going to be a shooter in the school, so let's just try and eliminate casualties. That's ridiculous to me. Why don't you try and stop it at the source? Why don't you try and stop these criminals from getting their hands on the guns in the first place? The armed security guards I can get behind more because they're trained. That's their job. That's what they signed up for. But at the same time, it's a short-term solution.

KELLY: Do you feel like your voice is being heard? This would not have felt normal before Parkland. Do you feel like we're at a moment where people are listening in a way that they weren't before?

BUTLER: Because of Parkland, I know that I can do this. Had somebody like NPR reached out to me before I saw Emma and David and Jacqueline and Cameron doing this, I wouldn't have said yes. I would have just kind of cowered in the corner and still been outspoken but not necessarily taken these opportunities that I've been given.

KELLY: That's quite something to have found your voice at your age.

BUTLER: Yeah. It kind of sucks that I have to have found my voice so young.

KELLY: Bree Butler, thank you.

BUTLER: Thank you.

KELLY: That is Bree Butler. She graduates today from Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.