BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) — As Tuesday marks the fifth anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in which 17 people were killed, Boardman High School is honoring first responders.
Students wanted to create something that would recognize Parkland and all senseless violence by honoring first responders — people who knew they would be the first to arrive and the first to protect in the face of tragedy.
The day started with a state-mandated lockdown drill. Local safety forces from Boardman police and fire, as well as the Mahoning County Sheriff`s Department, were invited. They walked the building, checking that all doors are locked, lights are out and classes are silent.
Following the drill, first responders walked through the halls, honored by the traditional Spartan “clap-out.”
Students told First News it’s a great way to honor those who keep them safe.
“It’s very important that we get to have these kinds of procedures and be around some of these great people that are here to protect us every day,” said Konnor Hines, a senior at Boardman High School.
“Just seeing them all together really was reminding me that through my elementary to senior year, we’ve always had somebody that was looking out for us,” Hines said. “And it just really was an assurance that we are safe and that we can still be kids.”
Taylor Hurd, a senior at Boardman High School, said not a day goes by when she doesn’t think of a potential emergency situation at her school.
“Every day I’m walking through the hallways thinking, if I’m here in this moment and this happens where am I going,” Hurd said. “As a generation, it’s no longer if a shooting happens — it is now when.”
Students told First News that it’s not just the state-mandated drills that make them feel safe. It’s also the man that drives this cruiser to work every single day.
“I wouldn’t say that I have any fears knowing that officer Poulos is here for us,” Hurd said.
The school resource officer is much more than a patrolman to the students.
“You can’t just be a fixture and a reminder of something bad that can happen,” said school resource officer Paul Poulos. “You have to become part of their everyday life. And they still know why I’m here, what I would do if somebody tried to come in and cause them harm. But on a day to day, I try to be more like their big brother if I can.”
Police and firefighters shared lunch with students as a chance for them to interact and bring awareness to the pain caused by senseless acts of violence.
In 2018, Boardman High School began this tradition, an event unique to Boardman.