SPRINGFIELD TWP. Springfield Junior/Senior High School students walked arm-in-arm last month to raise awareness and show support for those who have been affected by a friend or family member lost to heroin and opiate drugs.
Principal Shaun Morgan said students who were directly affected by someone who had issues with the drugs, wore purple. Those who were in support of those wearing purple, wore white.
He described what they were doing as a cell, purple in the middle, white circling around them and all others circling around those in white - with the whole group working together around the building and then onto and around the track.
Assistant Principal Michelle Warner said it was a moving experience to assemble by grade.
"I found it powerful to stand among those dressed in purple," she said. "I didn't need to know their stories and they didn't need to know mine, we were simply united by the commonality. Once the students and staff dressed in white were directed to gather around us it was very emotional."
The idea of the awareness walk was to show that everyone stays together and how the Springfield schools community recognizes some of their own are hurting due to the rise in opiate dependency. Morgan said they have done prevention programs and this walk is a continuation of that but, in a way, it was more supportive rather than preventative.
"We understand that there are people hurting and that people have lost people but we are here to support you and together we can make it," Morgan said.
He wanted to put all the kids all together in one big cell but at 1,100 students, that was too much to get in one large circle. The student body made six separate cells, one for each class in grades 7-12.
"I thought it was cool how the school did something to raise awareness," freshman Kylie Shawhan said. "Heroin is very addictive. I'm happy to see the school caring so much about its students."
Shawhan added that it brought students together by wearing the same color shirts because it let people know they aren't alone.
"I think it was good they gave people the option to participate or not because some people aren't comfortable with the subject," Shawan said.
During the event, Morgan said those wearing purple were brave enough to identify themselves as the ones that have lost someone or are hurting.
"No matter what color you are wearing, I know that your hearts hurt for those that are hurting," he said. "We all have hurts, we all have problems and we want them to see that there are people they go to school with everyday that are affected by this awful epidemic. When we support one and other we can make it. We can travel any road and we can make it together."
Warner said the message was that you are not alone as students and staff locked arms and walked.
"The experience didn't change the reality of our situations but it did relieve the emotional stress that you feel when you see the enormous support system we all have in each other," she said.
Sophomore Baylee Sweitzer summed up the day as she said the classes rallied together and marched against heroin and other opiates. They strode around their school, on the very sidewalks their friends once stood. They decorated themselves in white or purple. The purple represented I lost someone dear to me. The white reinforced the purple, championing, we stand with you, we support you.
"Springfield Township has been exponentially impacted by the heroin epidemic that plagues Ohio," Sweitzer said. "Bystanders watched the streaks of white and purple with pride and pain; how agonizing that we’ve lost so many, and how elating that we stand up against it. We still have yet to cure the disease infesting our township. But we have found a slow, tedious remedy - one that no one can swallow, inject, snort - and its beginning is in our community. We must unify ourselves, with our children, with our families, with our neighbors. We, the students, have begun the revolution against heroin. And we, the students, cannot continue without the support of our community - whether or not they wear white, or purple."