Arapahoe High School Student Media

ArapahoeXtra

Arapahoe High School Student Media

ArapahoeXtra

Arapahoe High School Student Media

ArapahoeXtra

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Warrior Strong

Tears, pain and progress in creating a stronger Warrior community.
OVER+500+STUDENTS++attended+a+candlelight+vigil+on+Dec.+14%2C+2013.+The+event+took+place+at+Arapaho+Park+and+supplies+for+the+event+were+donated+by+local+businesses.+The+Arapahoe+community+really+came+together+at+a+time+when+it+was+needed+where+they+shared+prayers+for+Claire+and+held+up+candles.+%0APhoto+courtesy+of+The+Denver+Post
Karl Gehring
OVER 500 STUDENTS attended a candlelight vigil on Dec. 14, 2013. The event took place at Arapaho Park and supplies for the event were donated by local businesses. The Arapahoe community really came together at a time when it was needed where they shared prayers for Claire and held up candles. Photo courtesy of The Denver Post

Eighty seconds. That’s all it took to send Arapahoe High School into chaos on Dec. 13, 2013, when senior Claire Davis was shot and killed by another student.

On a seemingly normal Friday early afternoon, students were in class or preparing for finals when Karl Pierson, a senior at the time, entered the school through the Forum doors carrying a shotgun, machete and a backpack that held three Molotov cocktails. 

Pierson killed Davis, who was sitting on a bench with a friend near the science wing, before taking his own life. 

It has now been 10 years since the tragic event took place. And also 10 years of acceptance, growth and strengthening in the community.

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‘Messages of love and kindness’

One year after the shooting, Arapahoe started the tradition of Deliberate Acts of Love and Kindness Week. 

Abby Kuhlmann, current AHS assistant principal and a teacher at the time of the shooting, says the idea for the week was brought up by a committee of administrators, parents and students.

“After we had heard from the Davis family about their messages of love and kindness and after our community had come back together, we really were focusing on this healing component of it,” she said.

To some students, this week may seem like just another spirit week, but its meaning stretches past that. 

Principal Natalie Pramenko says the purpose of the week is not just to look back on the tragedy but also to ensure students feel connected to the school. 

“We really try to focus on making sure our kids feel like they belong,” she said. 

Although there is a distance between current students and their connections to the shooting, Kuhlmann says the message of Deliberate Acts of Love and Kindness Week hasn’t changed for the staff who was there 10 years ago. 

“What I would love to see from students is just kind grace that week for their teachers,” she said. “But then to also carry that message in their interactions with their peers of love and kindness.”

PEOPLE VISIT THE MEMORIAL which was started on the west parking lot fence to commemorate Claire. The fence along Dry Creek Road was filled with balloons, posters and other items as a tribute to Claire. One of the balloons on the fence read “we are Warrior Strong.” There were other messages on the fence like “Pray 4 Claire” and “Warrior Strong Hope Love.”
Photo by Karl Gehring courtesy of The Denver Post

 

Impacts on mental health

According to the Washington Post, 389 school shootings have taken place since the 1999 Columbine massacre. 

Nate Thompson, the district mental health supervisor, says the high increase of school shootings can affect students’ mental health. 

“Today’s kids have to deal with some of those fears in a way that a lot of us didn’t when we were growing up, because schools are also becoming more prepared and taking precautions,” he said. 

Thompson also adds that over the past 10 years, about 30 more mental health programs have been added in the district. 

“We also have spent a lot of time trying to help teachers and staff to know how to support kids and what to do if they’re worried about their mental health,” he said, “as well as really trying to promote ways that kids can get support for themselves or for others.”

Regardless of school shootings, just the social aspects of high school can also have a big impact on mental health, Kuhlmann says. 

“I know that sometimes high school cannot be a loving or kind place, just for whatever reason,” she said. “There are some dynamics that sometimes make high school kind of tricky when it comes to that socially. And so my hope would be that kids could drop that at the door for at least a week.”

Pramenko says the school really wants to hone in on love and kindness because it helps not only with students’ mental health but also the staff’s. 

“I love watching our kids and staff just be kind to each other and support each other no matter where it is,” she said. “Seeing other kids lift other kids up–it makes my day and warms my heart. That’s why I do what I do.”

I love watching our kids and staff just be kind to each other and support each other no matter where it is. Seeing other kids lift other kids up–it makes my day and warms my heart. That’s why I do what I do.”

— Natalie Pramenko

English teacher Maura Moritz says that ever since the shooting, love and kindness has been, and will continue to be, something that should be spread around the school. 

“There’s not enough love and kindness,” she said. “And so I think Arapahoe deciding to turn in that direction was a really good choice.”

Thompson says that he is really proud of how much progress Arapahoe has made in the past 10 years. “What we know is that mental health and trusting relationships and peer relationships are really important for kids to be well,” he said. “And some of that comes out of what we learned from the shooting in terms of what’s really important to build to build a school culture.”

 

 

Teachers reflect on AHS school shooting 10 years later – 

https://arapahoextra.com/14212/uncategorized/teachers-reflect…g-10-years-later/

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About the Contributor
Anna Olson, Editor
Anna Olson is a Junior and this is her third year on The Herald staff. She loves to write and strives to study journalism in college. Outside of school, Anna plays volleyball, listens to some good tunes, and enjoys silly times. She is so excited to return to the Herald this year.

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