ANDOVER, NJ - What started out as a planned walkout by students to show their support for the Parkland victims ended in a civics lesson on the strength and compassion of a whole school community.

Eighth grade students at Long Pond School were aware of a growing planned demonstration via social media to “walk out” of classes on Friday, February 23 at 10 a.m. to sit silently in hallways for 17 minutes, each minute representing one fallen victim of the Parkland school shooting.

Students approached eighth grade Social Studies teacher Nick Cosimano, out of respect, to inform him of their planned actions. What happened next was the catalyst for something much more powerful.

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Through the discussion between students and faculty, they came to the point of questioning if the actions matched the intended results. Did it have to be a walk out? Don’t they all want the same things: comfort, security, a sense of belonging? Aren’t they all grieving similarly, students and staff alike?

The eighth graders got to work with Mr. Cosimano and Principal Fleming to plan their own tribute to Parkland victims. On Friday, February 23 at 10 a.m., Principal Fleming announced to students that together they were going to do a 17 minute moment of silence.

All students and staff lined the hallways of the school. Students were quietly led to the gymnasium in grade order. Fifth graders sat in the center of the gymnasium floor and each succeeding grade level encircled the previous grade.

Finally, all staff, joined by the Andover police chief and other members of the force and a board of education member, created the last circle. Together, as one united community, the Long Pond Chargers sat together demonstrating their kindness, support, and compassion for one another as well as for the victims of Parkland.

At the conclusion of the 17 minutes, Principal Fleming spoke to the students and praised them for coming forward with their thoughts and for their maturity in working together.

Three eighth graders followed with short speeches to the student body discussing the importance of remembering the strength of the circle before them and suggested ways to show support towards fellow classmates.

One student also read a tribute to the victims who no longer had voices to use. The presentation ended with Chief Danielson praising the students and assuring them that their safety is a constant priority. Chief also addressed some known student questions, concerns, and suggestions that were brought forth following the latest school tragedy.

Chief explain that safety and security measures are constantly being updated based upon new information. He also explained that he and the force are always there for students and are happy to come in any time to continue the conversation.

At the conclusion of the assembly students exited the gymnasium with arms slung around one another’s shoulders looking comforted by the power of their community.