“On February 14, 2018, I received frantic texts from my friends hiding from a shooter in their classrooms. I began to hyperventilate, worrying the unthinkable would happen in Parkland, Florida. At the end of a restless day, I learned one of my fellow URJ campers, Alyssa Alhadeff, had been killed. I developed anxiety after the shooting and couldn’t attend a full day of school for weeks. My visits to the school guidance counselor were frequent, and my nightmares made sleeping difficult. Despite these challenges, I was inspired by the youth-led movements emerging across the country. I facilitated a walkout at my high school in North Carolina, marched in support of gun control alongside my friends in Washington, D.C. and registered voters. As my advocacy increased, I still felt my impact wasn’t meaningful enough. That led me to create Return Home Supplies, a gun violence prevention nonprofit that believes every student and teacher deserve to return home safely from school each day. By selling school supplies with messages that sparked educational conversations, Return Home raised thousands of dollars for our nation's leading gun violence prevention groups. I shared my story in communities across the country and built personal connections with over 30,000 people, including gun violence survivors, elected officials and Americans longing for safety. Knowing there are 2,000 pencils, folders and other school supplies on desks across America raising awareness motivates me to continue using my own voice to raise awareness every day.” — Juliana (Jules) Oringel, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Juliana (Jules) Oringel is a recipient of the inaugural Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship from Hillel International. Learn more about Hillel scholarships for Jewish students by visiting hillel.org/scholarships.