History Has Its Eyes On Us
Shelby Garrett, Rocketship Spark Academy
It was only one year ago at the end of July, yet it seems like just yesterday and another lifetime ago all at the same time. Some days, the wounds feel fresh and wide open. Other days it feels like the scars of a devastating tragedy have healed and built tougher skin in its place, ready to take on anything the world has to throw at it. These wounds and scars were made from the day Stephen Romero was taken from us.
The days after were filled with incredible grief, and everyone responded differently. No one can prepare you for that. It was also filled with a community that stepped into action to protect and uplift the Romero and Spark family. No one can prepare you for that either. The amount of strength it takes to get up every day and put in the work for yourself and the community around you is not measurable. And we won’t lie, some days felt lonely. While the rest of the world was arguing and screaming about gun reform, we were thinking about our families and kids. We had so many questions and no one seemed to have many answers. When normally, you might turn on the news for answers, turning on the news was a reminder of the pain the Romero and Spark family had to endure and of a system that felt broken.
On July 28, 2019 we lost a bright and shining star, a rising first-grader, a proud Kindergarten graduate, Stephen Romero. To the world outside our Spark family, it’s the day that a teenager walked into one of the biggest celebrations our community has and killed 3 people and wounded 17 others. The mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival is now a part of the history books. And history has its eyes on us.
At Rocketship, we know that this is not just about gun reform, but also the failure of the education system. A system that failed to teach an angry teenager the importance of people of color. A failure of a system to repeat over and over, that Black Lives Matter. To bridge connections inside the classroom and teach the children that just because you are different, does not make you a threat. To teach students how to be allies in a struggle for justice, that all people are created equal. To provide funding and training for mental health.
The urgency to teach and understand social justice wasn’t there. The urgency to give proper mental health services to families in need was absent.
It’s a year later, and the world is just catching on. People marched in the streets. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Riah Milton. Jacob Blake. No more. We know the work that has to be done. America suddenly feels the urgency. Taking action to bring our community social justice and providing mental health support for our students is something that cannot wait.
At Spark, we are imagineering new ways to open the hearts and minds of our little ones so no one has to feel alone. We will make sure that our families know they deserve to be heard. That they are unleashing their power to go out into the world and make change. Social justice transformation and educational restructuring in the middle of a global pandemic. We are holding each other accountable to make sure that we are doing everything possible to bring about change, down to the everyday language we use.
I didn’t have the honor of having Stephen in my class. I was lucky enough to teach his cousin and meet him on more than one occasion. A proud smile as he struts around in his favorite jacket. That’s how we like to remember him. We carry that smile on a button, and in our hearts. Even if you can’t see it, it’s with us.
We have a lot of grieving left to do. We have a lot of work left to do. We have a lot of learning left to do. We have a lot of love to give to our students and families. We have made it through the unimaginable. We are transforming a system.
We are Spark Strong and Gilroy Strong. And we will never forget you, Stephen.
Published on October 1, 2020