A local youth group is fundraising to bring survivors of one of America’s deadliest high school shootings to Ely.
During an exclusive interview with Spotted in Ely yesterday, members of the East Cambs Youth Consultation Panel revealed they needed to raise at least £10,000 to bring eight students and two chaperones over in October.
They’re also hoping to raise cash to help pay for counselling for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims.
On February 14, a gunman killed 17 people and wounded a further 17 in the space of just six minutes in Parkland, Florida, making it one of America’s worst school massacres.
Shocked by the students’ plight but humbled by their bravery in the aftermath of the shooting, the East Cambridgeshire teens are inviting some of them over, to learn about their culture, spend time in their classrooms and stay with their families.
In a Spotted in Ely podcast, Molly Curtis, 15, said it was hard to comprehend the pain her American counterparts were going through.
“When you go to school you expect to be safe and when something like that comes into the news and people have been killed in school, it’s really shocking because we go to school every day.”
Daniel Davey, 16, said: “We want to learn by their experiences, and we want them to have an opportunity to visit us and learn by ours. Everyone believes that young people should be safe at school.”
Fran Gallelli, 15, said that while knife crime was becoming an increasing concern for young people in the UK, at least they didn’t have to worry about guns.
Ely-based police sergeant Phil Priestly, who leads the East Cambridgeshire Youth Panel, said its members had been deeply touched by the massacre.
“I remember the meeting after the shooting. We were all a bit shocked about what had happened… Everybody saw the incredible response from that community. If they can get up and do what they’ve done, we can get up and help them.”
The panel is not there to preach about American gun laws, or the Second Amendment, but to offer help and support to the Florida students, he said.
Although the fundraising target is ambitious, he hopes individuals and businesses alike will rally behind them to help them achieve their target.
A heartfelt YouTube video made by the youth panel, inviting the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students over to East Cambridgeshire, has been gaining momentum on Twitter, Sgt Priestly said.
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The panel is in the process of setting up a crowd-funder for the project, and is looking for corporate sponsors and raffle prizes as well.
During yesterday’s podcast, Soham Village College students Fran and Molly, who helped set up the panel, were presented with a £50 Arbuckles meal voucher each, as well as a family ticket for four at Cineworld.
Sigma Embroidery, in Witchford, will provide special t-shirts for the youth panel to wear when out in the community.
The youth stereotype-busting East Cambs Youth Consultation Panel was formed two years ago as a means for police to engage with local youth.
The panel is looking for new members to join them. To qualify, you have to be a secondary school student either living or studying in the district.
For more information message Policing East Cambridgeshire on Facebook or tweet @CambsYouthPanel.