Connecticut Commission on Children: An Agency of the Connecticut General Assembly
The Connecticut Commission on Children
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Hartford, Connecticut 06106-1591

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Student Art to Heal and to Hope

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Students from the Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School in Waterbury dance in tribute to the victims and heroes of Newtown at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, June 5, 2013.

The Commission on Children marks the one-year anniversary of the Newtown massacre by highlighting some of the artwork, writing, and performances that children across Connecticut submitted last spring in tribute to the heroes and victims of December 14, 2012. The selections and accompanying commentary come from Commission Executive Director Elaine Zimmerman.

December 23, 2013

The Connecticut student art submissions on Newtown highlighted today begin with a letter by high school student Katy Wyckoff of Trumbull.Katy had reviewed the original student submissions. Six months later, she offers her thoughts on the process and personal impact of sitting with the art of all genres that was so caringly contributed by our student population:

December 14, 2013

Love: to Heal, to Honor, to Encourage.

Love is powerful. It is capable of healing, of honoring, and encouraging. When the tragedy of the Sandy Hook shooting happened on that terrible day one year ago, we saw love manifest in all of these ways.

Our world is broken, that is for sure. No one ever expects an action as heart-wrenching as a massacre to happen in their own backyard. So when it does, we are numbed. How do we live with these holes in our hearts? The answer: love. Love comes in and attempts to fill the empty places within us. Not only the surrounding area, not only the state, not only the country, but the world showed abundant love to Newtown, Connecticut. Candlelight vigils were held, prayer groups gathered, relief organizations were created, Facebook pages popped up, all with the intent to love our neighbors in Newtown by helping them to heal, honoring their lost loved ones, and encouraging them for the future.

As a member of the Connecticut Student State Advisory Council on Education at the time of the tragedy, I had much anticipation going into our monthly meeting about the ways in which we would be called to help. This council is composed of chosen high school juniors and seniors from across the state. We gather monthly during the school year to design and propose methods to improve our Connecticut school system. We presented these ideas and action plans to the state Board of Education at the end of the school year. We act as the bridge between our local school systems and the state system, so it made great sense to involve us in a relief project for Sandy Hook.

The Commission on Children came to SSACE and requested our help with a reflection project. Students and teachers across the state had the opportunity to submit a piece of art- writing, poetry, music, dance, drawing, painting, sculpture, photograph, video- that reflected their feelings about the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Selected pieces of work were to be on display at an expo in Hartford. Everyone was affected by the tragedy in some manner, yet not everyone was able to reflect on the tragedy in a way that was beneficial for them. This project provided a means for this reflection.

I was one of the lucky few students who got to review these submissions. Each work was unique in its delivery, but similar in its underlying message: love wins. Songs, dances, videos all reflected love’s ability to heal, to honor, and to encourage. This method of reflection provided healing, honor, and encouragement for the students who created them, but also for those families who lost loved ones on December 14, 2012.

We hope these pieces of art will fill your heart with love as they heal, honor, and encourage all those who have been impacted by the events at Sandy Hook. “We choose love.”

With love,

Katy Wyckoff,
Trumbull, Connecticut

Additionally, we highlight a poem by Aaron Jones called "Out of Love." Aaron shows how 12/14 changed his views and the state’s. He skillfully shows how teachers are new heroes and how tragedy creates some different vantage points for everyone. As he said it so well himself, “Teachers put themselves second before children every day.”

Out of Love

Newtown has set a trend.

Out of love.

It has made us all want to lend.

Out of Love.

Public figures have taken action.

While others are making traction.

Out of love.

Many public figures show up at the school and our youth is now more important.

Out of love.

Rebuilding, Reviving, and Rising.

Out of Love.

All because of this terrible day

Our community adjusts to disaster by rebuilding and following the strong kids of Newtown.

Out of Love.

My new heroes are teachers.

Out of Love.

Teachers put themselves second before children every day.

Those who are on the line.

Out of love.

Keep us all acting very kind.

Thank you for being strong for us on this terrible day.

Next, we present a drawing and paragraph by third-grader Karelie Quimby of Norwich. In each, she reveals her sense of schools needing additional support in safety. Her drawing exposes how unsafe some students feel, suggesting the need for continued conversations at school and in community. I especially appreciate Karelie's idea to keep “bad people from peeking through.”

Karakei Quimby

Karelie's text: "I think schools could have guards, strong gates, windows w/ curtains. With guards, the school could be watched over. Strong gates could keep out intruders. Thick, dark-tint windows with curtains could keep bad people from peeking through to find students. This could help keep schools safe, secure, and a good place to be."

Finally, we have a dream drawing by Simar Soni, age 7, of Danbury where guns are no longer made or sold. Simar maintains that if we stop making guns, “People will stop fighting and killing other people.”

Simar Soni art

Thanking again all our students for their heartfelt contributions to our 12/14 tribute.

Elaine Zimmerman
Executive Director
Connecticut Commission on Children

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