Cal High students aim to turn school shooting fears into preventative action

Students at California High School in San Ramon are turning fear into action by remembering and honoring the victims of the Texas elementary school shooting.

Painted rocks with messages of care. Candles placed to honor the students and teachers’ lives lost. And rooted by a tree that may appear tired and troubled.

"I think we’re just figuring out how we can make students feel safe on campus," high school senior Dyuthi Kumar said. "Sometimes that starts with just talking about it."

Kumar is the leader of the Sandy Hook Promise Club at her school, a chapter of a national organization that aims to protect children from gun violence and curb incidents that play out again and again.

The club at Cal High has organized town halls and group therapy sessions for three years, with a goal to educate and encourage empathy, prevent suicide, and look for warning signs among students in crisis.

"We’re really preaching to be an upstander to when you see something, say something," advisor and counselor Patty Mullins said. "It takes all of us to recognize that somebody is in trouble and to be able to act on that."

The school has also acted by developing a wellness center for students to talk about their feelings, meet with a counselor, or simply clear their minds.

There is even a "Zen Den" that is meant to be a safe space for students to relax, recognize and overcome anxiety, and find comfort.

"We’ve had so much use of this. It’s very critical," Mullins said. "Take that fear and turn it into something productive, something we can do."

That is what brought about the rock paintings as a form of self-expression and to spread messages of love within their school community.

Mullins decided the long term plan to create a community garden to remember lives lost to gun violence could not wait anymore. 

In light of the elementary school shooting Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead, she cleared a path around a small tree that now serves as a memorial. 

Kumar and fellow students held a moment of silence and placed candles in honor of the victims on top of the painted rocks for the community to see.

"Cal High is an amazing place to make a home for yourself," she said.

Kumar is graduating but said her work and passion has created some positive change.

She earned a spot on the national Sandy Hook Promise board as an ambassador. The organization is working to raise awareness and bring more violence prevention programs to more students.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU