By Christianna Silva
High school graduation is meant to be a monumental occasion filled with pride, positivity, and maybe a bit of restlessness for what comes next. But for some Gen Zers, who have grown up practicing active shooter drills and reading about continued incidents of gun violence, the day can turn somber. According to The Washington Post, more than 228,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine, and Gina Warren decided to use her graduation day to honor the lives of those who were killed before they were given the chance to receive their diplomas.
The 18-year-old Teays Valley High School student from Ashville, Ohio, decorated her graduation cap with a scannable QR code that directed users to a website titled: “i graduated. these high school students couldn’t.” The webpage reads: “protect our students. protect our kids. protect our neighbors. protect our families. protect our friends. protect our nation,” and goes on to list the names of students who were killed during school shootings dating back to the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and through the attack on STEM school last week. Her webpage ends with a call to action for everyone reading to “protect our students. vote. everytown.org. marchforourlives.org.”
She plans to wear the cap to her graduation on Sunday so that everyone who snaps a picture can join her in remembering the victims of violence.
Warren said she wanted to “honor the kids who couldn't graduate,” but since there were at least 144 people killed in school shootings since Columbine, according to the Post, she couldn’t find a way to fit everyone’s names on her cap. That’s why she decided to create a QR code, which she “thought was a little more creative.”
“I saw last year after the Parkland shooting a lot of students had decorated their caps orange with the price tag,” Warren told MTV News. “Theirs was a message to the NRA, but I wanted to make mine like something with a similar impact on the same topic. I wanted to spread the message to everybody who saw it, not just the NRA or lawmakers.”
And spread the message she did. She shared her effort on Twitter which went viral and amassed more than 91,000 retweets and 322,000 likes. In response, some Twitter users reminded her of a few students she forgot to include while other grads asked for the QR code so that they could put it on their caps as well.
The cap isn’t the first time Warren has used her fashion sense to take a stand against gun violence. Following the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she wanted to incorporate orange, the color supporting gun safety, into her prom look. So she pinned an orange ribbon with the word “hope” onto her black dress, swiped on orange makeup, and wrote the word “enough” on her shoes with glitter.
“[Ending gun violence] is something that I really am passionate about and something that I really would like to change,” Warren told MTV News. “I've been fighting for it for a while.”