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Jaclyn Corin wasn't 'utterly shocked' by the Parkland shooting, and that sad fact has inspired her generation to speak out

Elena Sheppard
Wellness Editor
(Photo courtesy of Jaclyn Corin; Artwork by Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

February 14 started off as a normal school day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School until roughly 2:21 p.m., when a gunman opened fire. Jaclyn Corin, a junior, was on campus that day and watched many of her classmates perish. All told, 17 people would die because of the events of that day. After the shooting, Jaclyn found herself moved to take action, stand up to politicians she felt were not protecting her and other students, and make her voice heard.

She co-founded the March for Our Lives, which gathered millions on March 24 to demonstrate in support of gun control. This fall, when Jaclyn heads back to Stoneman Douglas High for her senior year, she will serve as class president. And this November, when the midterm election rolls around, she will be able to vote for the first time. Jaclyn will stop at nothing to fight for what she believes in — and she’s already proven that she knows just how to make sure her voice is heard.

Name: Jaclyn Corin

Age: 17

Favorite app: Twitter. I made my Twitter on Feb. 18. I didn’t have my Twitter before Valentine’s Day, but now I love it. Not only can I go on Twitter and go on different accounts and see things like entertainment — most of my feed is gun violence — it’s also my news source because I don’t have time to sit and watch TV sometimes. It allows for literally everything.

What she does: 11th grader, co-founder March for Our Lives, gun control advocate, incoming senior class president at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am a vessel for a message.

How gun control became important to her: There was a mass shooting at my school. I was never involved with any of this prior to that, but [afterward], it seemed like there was something in me that was telling me I had to do something about it. I couldn’t just sit back and watch this happen over and over again. That’s what I’d always done — until the faces on the news became faces that I recognized. That’s when I knew it was time to step up, because I wasn’t afraid of any of the backlash and I knew that a lot of people would be, so I wasn’t afraid to step up.

 

Her thoughts about school shootings prior to the Stoneman Douglas killings: Honestly, I was never affected that much because they have always been a part of my life. Columbine happened before I was born, so [when it happened to us] I was kind of like, oh, again? Literally when I was in the room hiding, I wasn’t even that surprised that this was happening. That sounds terrifying to say, but it’s true. I was like, “I’m not utterly shocked that this is happening at my school because it’s so common these days.” It breaks my heart to have to think like that. No one should have to expect something to happen to them. I wasn’t entirely desensitized, obviously. When Newtown happened, I didn’t really understand the complexity of it because I was only 12, so I didn’t fully understand, and I started to understand when Pulse happened.

A month before the shooting [at my school] I was really involved in mass shooting research. I remember reading the journals from Columbine just like a month before because I was really interested in how someone could think like that. I was never that interested in advocating for gun reform, but who else is the world going to listen to other than an actual survivor? No one’s going to listen to a random girl from a random school.

Three words she’d use to define Gen Z: Resilient. Prepared. Unafraid.

What she wishes older people understood about Gen Z: I wish they understood memes because we posted a meme on March for Our Lives, and older people were really confused.

I wish they knew that just because we’re always on our phones and we always have our noses in our technology, that is not always a bad thing. That is the easiest way to educate ourselves, and they only look at it as a negative thing and never open their eyes to the positives. We literally have the answer to every question we could possibly want the answer to at our fingertips, and they just can’t stop thinking that all we’re doing on our little box is looking at pictures of models — that’s not what we’re doing. We’re educating ourselves. I know that every single piece of information that helps me through this journey comes from the internet. We don’t learn this stuff in school, even though we should, so we have to take it upon ourselves to teach ourselves through technology, and that’s something they don’t understand. I do think they understand the power of protest because they’ve lived through it — but I don’t think they understand that protest can come in a lot of different forms in today’s age. It doesn’t always have to be a rally; it’s also a tweet.

 

How she thinks Gen Z will change the world: I think the power of youth is really underestimated. No matter if it’s the United States and gun violence, or Africa and police brutality, or any other country and the problem they’re dealing with, the young people have the most energy and have the resilience to make the difference. The younger generations are a lot more open-minded than older generations because we’ve seen so many changes. In just our lifetime alone, we’ve seen LGBTQ rights get passed, we grew up with people who don’t look like us constantly, so it’s just that open-mindedness that will pave the way for morally just leaders who will rule our country 30 years from now.

Her greatest accomplishment so far: I just think it’s the social awareness that so many teenagers have now. Before this, a lot of teens weren’t politically involved at all. And I’ve gone to, I think, seven high schools now, and at every school they’re like, “I was never politically involved, but now I’m so interested in all of it. I want to go to school for political science because you guys inspire me.” Just the fact that people are opening up their eyes and seeing that politics has a huge effect on their lives. I think that’s the most important thing we’ve done. There are over 600 March for Our Lives chapters across the country, and I think that alone represents the difference we’re making on a school level. And I think the school-level difference is our greatest accomplishment right now. It’s not even the fact that we got a million people to rally in D.C. That’s obviously up there, but I think the persistent involvement is more impactful, and I think we’re going to see that because we want the largest voter force to turn out in November.

What she hopes she’s doing in 10 years: I hope that I won’t have to be fighting for gun reform anymore. I hope that will be out of the way already. Honestly, I don’t see myself straying away from human rights issues ever. I went to a human rights education summit in Kenya last week, and just everything about that inspired me to the greatest lengths. I think I’m going to forever work on human rights issues. It’s something that has affected me personally and something that I have a passion for, and I’ve never found that in myself. I would always just say, “Hey, I think I’d be good at nursing,” or “Hey, I think I’d be a good veterinarian,” but never in my life have I said, “Hey, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life” — and this is something that I do. So wherever that takes me — whether that’s helping young leaders like myself 20 years from now and being their mentor or just creating another organization for another problem that needs to get fixed. I don’t know right now. I barely know what I’m going to do tomorrow, so 20 years from now is very blurry.

 

What school is like now at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High: They had us go back two weeks after the shooting, exactly two weeks. Fun fact: The kids at Newtown went back months after, Columbine was closed for the rest of the year, but we went back after two weeks. That was already a horrible, horrible, horrible plan because nobody was ready for that, in my opinion. We should have had at least a month. Going back that soon and seeing the empty chairs that soon — I spent the first week crying. We did just color and play with Play-Doh for two weeks, but having us be there and seeing the physical missing presence — it was not beneficial to anyone. I get why they did it — they wanted to get everyone together and get a sense of community — but for a lot of kids, they weren’t ready for that and they weren’t done mourning. I think they should have waited a little longer. A month after the shooting we were back to normal classes, and it’s really sad because a large percentage of our graduating class usually ends up graduating, and this year a lot more people can’t graduate because people aren’t able to focus. It’s not easy for anybody. I’m taking AP exams right now, and I for one can’t focus the way I used to — no one can. It’s something that everyone is going to have to deal with, especially the freshmen this year, they’re going to be dealing with it until they graduate. They’re going to have to be sitting in the same classrooms where they were hiding for the next four years. It’s going to be a very, very apparent feeling for the next few years of Douglas.