A high school student is using her creativity to turn her graduation ceremony into a somber moment of reflection for those teenagers who missed the milestone in the last decade because they were victims of mass shootings.
Gina Warren, 18, of Ashville, Ohio, has decorated her graduation cap with a QR code that sends people who scan it with their phones to a list of students killed in US high schools.
The list, compiled by Warren, starts with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and ends with last week’s STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting in suburban Denver.
“I was inspired by the orange price tag caps that many students did last year after the Parkland shooting,” Warren told CNN, referring to what Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s class of 2018 did after 17 people were killed there.
Warren is planning to wear the cap at her graduation ceremony Sunday at Teays Valley High School.
“Their caps were a message to the NRA and lawmakers. I wanted to do something just as powerful but send a message to everyone who saw it.”
Last year, some members of the Marjory Stoneman graduating class such as David Hogg, a voice in the Never Again gun control movement, wore orange caps with price tags of $1.05 attached to their tassels.
According to Never Again, the tag was intended to represent how much each student in Florida was worth to Sen. Marco Rubio based on how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.
In a CNN town hall last year on gun violence and the Parkland massacre, Rubio defended accepting support from the gun lobby. “There’s money on both sides of every issue in America,” he said. “I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda.”
Warren said she built the “ridiculously long” list by looking at Wikipedia and other sources, such as the gun control advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
“This is mostly about honoring these kids,” Warren said. “I want more than anything to keep their memory alive. But looking at that list, I’m hoping that everyone is touched and sees that there is a serious, serious problem in our country.”
A tweet from Warren shows how to scan the QR code to redirect it to the list called “I graduated. These high school students couldn’t.” The tweet went viral, with more than 300,000 likes and 90,000 retweets.
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, although some accused her of using the graduation cap to “push an agenda,” she said.
But Warren said she wanted people to “look at the cap and see that there are far too many names and that this is a problem.”
“I encourage people to speak up and vote, I’m not going to tell anyone how to think or who to vote for,” she said. “But whether you think we should arm teachers or place restitutions on guns all together, we need to fight for a safer country.”
People are now asking Warren to provide a picture of the QR code so they can put it on their graduation caps.