O'Maley wears orange because of Martina

Jun. 4—By coincidence, on the Tuesday morning of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, here in Gloucester, eighth-grader Martina Cracchiolo met with O'Maley Innovation Middle School Principal Lynne Beattie about her idea for a civics project on gun violence awareness.

Martina asked if O'Maley students, staff and teachers could wear orange on National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday, June 3.

Her idea for the spirit day came as part of her eighth-grade Global Citizenship Project, which involves students studying civics in social studies taking on a topic they care about, and making a difference locally.

Later Tuesday, an 18-year-old gunman stormed Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and killed 19 students and two teachers. For Beattie, what happened in Texas and the timeliness of Martina's request cemented the idea of having a day devoted to gun violence awareness.

To let the school community know what was going on, Beattie shared a letter Martina wrote, asking families to encourage students to wear orange to mark Wear Orange Day.

"This topic is important to me because I feel every student should have the right to feel safe, and protected when they come to school every day," Martina wrote in her letter. "I started this project with the goal of making schools a safer environment for students and staff."

"I have collected data from students and staff in O'Maley to get their opinions and feedback," she wrote. "By sending out a survey with questions, I have noted that 88% of people fear or think of the possibility of an intruder. This shows that there is a way to make people feel safer, and more comforted in O'Maley."

Martina said she did her research on the website of Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit dedicated to gun violence prevention, and also contacted Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito "and asked them for their opinions and help to make schools a better environment."

"I thought it was really good that more people are getting informed on how serious this issue is," she said in an interview about how her letter was shared with the community.

For their Global Citizenship Projects, eighth graders research their topics and make presentations to families, Martina said. They can create a poster or a slide show with presentations taking place on Thursday, June 9. She decided to take on the subject before the school shooting in Uvalde.

"That day before I found out about it," Martina said, "me and Ms. Beattie talked about writing a newsletter and the spirit day, so I was working on that, and then I heard about it, and that's what made me really want to send it out even more."

Martina said her message to the community and other kids on gun violence awareness is one of safety, "to, like, be aware of your surroundings and, like, make sure that if you see a door open or not shut properly, to close it." She also said parents and guardians who own a firearm need to make sure it is stored safely and "out of the child's sight."

"I think it's a great thing because she's really quiet," said mom Maria Cracchiolo of the school sharing her daughter's letter. "And basically her little, quiet voice is a big voice in this situation because she is basically speaking out for a lot of kids who are afraid sometimes to go to school and the fear of: 'What if?'"

The school's three guidance counselors — Beckie Matheson who works with the eighth grade, Mark Mastandrea, who works with the sixth grade, and Mary White, who works with the seventh grade — spoke about how they try to keep students safe by staying connected, building a sense of community, and reinforcing safety protocols already in place.

"This project is an awesome opportunity to show that kids want to be part of the conversation," Mastandrea said.

Matheson said she was proud of Martina for reaching out the way she did and taking on what is a touchy subject that also hits close to home.

"I think that it was brave of her to take on and to look into the stats and find out ways to make more awareness and stop it," Matheson said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or by email at eforman@northofboston.com.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or by email at eforman@northofboston.com.