Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have shown themselves deft at using technology to get their message out, harnessing Twitter and Facebook to rally a national audience to their calls for stricter limits on gun use.
They’re pretty good at e-commerce, too.
Members of the Student Government Association at the Parkland, Fla. high school where a former classmate killed 17 fellow students and staff with an assault weapon on February 14 wanted to sell tee-shirts that emphasized a spirit of unity as students returned last week.
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So in one day, the group built an online store using the website creation platform, Weebly. The shirts, printed with #MSDstrong, sold for $20 a piece, funds the group hope will help rebuild morale at the school, perhaps with a memorial.
In less than one week of being online, they made $175,000 in sales.
“It was just easy to use, kid-friendly and you didn’t have to know too much about programming to use it,” says Justin Mellinger, a Student Assessment Specialist at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The poise and organizing prowess of student survivors, who made round after round of TV interviews and visited lawmakers in the days after the attack, have captivated Americans and pushed companies to act, as well as prompted a swift backlash from guns-rights groups and their political allies.
They’ve responded with the digital ease born of growing up with smartphones and social networks. Activist Emma Gonzalez, weeks after joining Twitter, had nearly twice as many followers as the NRA.
Their cause has gone global. The student association reports it sold tee-shirts to Canada, Australia, Thailand, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Israel and France, as well as the U.S.
“It means so much to see all these different places coming together and sending so much love our way and such sincere messages,” said student Sabrina Fernandez, a senior a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “It doesn’t take away the pain but it definitely, definitely makes everything a lot easier.”
The store is keeping everyone busy and Fernandez says, that’s a healing mechanism.
“To be able to dive into this project, coming back on my first day, it just means a lot to be doing things that really are benefiting the whole school. It really helps.”
San Francisco-based Weebly is hosting the store for free. Its processing partner, Square, waived their fees and ShipStation, partnered with FedEx, is waiving shipping costs, as well.
“At every step in the chain, everyone is doing what they can to help support these students,” says Weebly CEO Dave Rusenko.
So far, the students’ online store has had 83,239 unique visitors, has made $181,000 in merchandise sales and received $19,000 in donations.
They’re still brainstorming on what they will use the money for. So far, their ideas include possibly making senior prom free, lowering the price of homecoming tickets, giving everyone their own t-shirt on the first day of school next year, and building a memorial for the students lost in the shooting.
“It’s things like that that the outside world might not realize is so important to a high school kid,” says Danielle Driscoll, an advisor to the school’s Student Government Association.
The community at Marjory Stoneman Douglas says though the money means opportunity for their school, the worldwide response means so much more.
“It’s not just about a $20 tee-shirt,” says Driscoll. “It’s that some random person in some town in whatever state is thinking about them and want them to know that they’re supported.”