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'We're still hurting': Central VPA students gather for celebration, reflection and call for action

Hundreds gathered at Central VPA to march and reflect, as they continue to heal from the deadly school shooting on Oct. 24.

ST. LOUIS — Students from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School came together to heal, reflect and call for action.

Hundreds gathered at the high school for the "Family Undivided" March and Celebration of Life on Sunday, Nov. 6. 

The event came almost two weeks after a gunman opened fire on the school's campus and took the life of student, Alexzandria Bell, and teacher, Jean Kuczka. 

Step by step and song by song, students, alumni, parents and neighbors came together to remember those they lost. 

Rayquan Strickland, CVPA senior and organizer of the "Family Undivided," said Bell and Kuczka deserve to have their names live on.

"We are going to keep their names alive -- we're going to keep their legacies alive," he said. "These were two beautiful souls, two pure hearts."

Another main theme of the event was pushing for change with gun legislation through voting.

Senior Victoria Russell said everyone needs to make their voices heard, so this does not happen again.

"As a community, we need to come together and unify and change something," she said.

The event was organized and facilitated by CVPA students. 

Strickland said God gave him a vision about this day, just 24 hours after the deadly shooting, that changed his school forever.

"Healing helps us in a time of pain because a lot of us never expected this to happen to our school, so right now, we're still hurting. We're dealing with grief -- we're dealing with this heavy load and to come together as a family and say the building is the building and the family is the family and to know that with each other and unity and love, we can get through this," he said.

Throughout the afternoon the student body expressed their pain doing what they do best, according to Russell. 

"This is a way of healing because we are healing through our creativity, we are healing through our art, we're healing through what we do. Also, being around each other as a community is healing because that's how we function as a school -- as a student body," she said.

The hundreds gathered behind the high school heard from speakers calling for unity and a mom sharing her grief.

"I don't want none of y'all...no adult in here...to feel the pain I feel every day...knowing that I will never get to see my child graduate...perform in another recital...," Bell's mom said. 

While the scars from Oct. 24 will always be here, the CVPA family wants everyone to know, they are not giving up.

"I hope that they know that Central is yet alive -- that we are in our healing process -- and together we are moving forward," Strickland said.

There were also counselors at the event talking with the community and several different booths encouraging people to get out and vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8. 

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