SOTA Club at KU-Fort Lauderdale Supports Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”- Edward Everett Hale

That quote touched Jane O’Connell in the days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As a student in Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Keiser University’s Fort Lauderdale campus, she and her classmates have a heart for healing and wanted to offer support to students, families and first responders. Many of the SOTA Club members either live in Parkland, are alumni of the high school or know someone impacted the mass shootings that occurred February 14.

“At a time when there is so much hurt, we wanted to help in any way we could, and occupational therapy is healing by doing” O’Connell said.

She came up with an idea to create “kindness rocks” as part of a class group therapy project on emotional expression. Their idea was borrowed from an ongoing national movement to spread inspiration and kindness by leaving painted rocks for unsuspecting recipients to find in parks and other public places. The SOTA Club hosted a week-long event open to the entire campus, inviting all students to paint the rocks with encouraging sayings and inspirational words.  On March 14, one month after the tragedy, KU students and faculty gathered together to plant a tree in memorial and spread the stones around it. They’re waiting to hear back from Douglas high school about placing the tree there. In the meantime, they have planted it at their Fort Lauderdale campus.

“Our class project centered around using a craft activity to express yourself,” said fellow SOTA club member Nathaly Rusinque, who was a student at Douglas high school 15 years ago and still lives nearby. “We wanted it to provide a sense of acknowledgement to the community, to let them know that we care and that we won’t forget.

O’Connell along with fellow OTA student Nathan Langston organized a snack drive collecting snacks and creating care packages that were delivered to first responders at the Parkland Fire Department and at the Broward County Sheriff’s office.

O’Connell and Rusinque are part of the OTA class that began last fall. Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping people gain skills needed to become independent in daily living activities. Students learn the therapeutic use of occupations which include self-care, work and play/leisure activities to maximize independent function, enhance development, prevent disability and maintain health.