OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, struck a chord with communities across the country as school systems grapple with safety.
A town hall in Overland Park addressed preventing gun violence and keeping schools safe on Saturday, hosted by Kansas Sen. Cindy Holscher and the Freedom to Learn political action committee.
"This is definitely something that's going to be with me for the rest of my life," Luciana De Anda recalled of the shooting she witnessed at her alma mater, Olathe East High School. "[It's] going to take a while for me to recover from this."
She and her mom Carisa were already involved in gun violence prevention groups prior to the March shooting at the school.
"Once you've actually gone through it, you understand how important it is," Carisa De Anda said.
They're ramping up their efforts following a recent surge in mass shootings, including at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. That advocacy work included attending Saturday's town hall.
"This is the first time that I've been to an event where I felt like the people there were invested in creating change," said Blue Valley High School teacher Dianne O'Bryan.
Other teachers, parents, students and mental health professionals filled the conference room at Tomahawk Ridge Community Center. Educators like O'Bryan are focused on meaningful time off this summer.
"Rebuild our spirits, because the last two years have taken so much away from us. To end the school year with such a tragic shooting put a really heavy note on the beginning of summer," O'Bryan said. "My hope is we can come back in the fall and that we can see people in our communities working for some change in that area. That’s going to allow us to really focus on what we do best, and that is working with the kids."
Even in such a heavy atmosphere, there's optimism that the aftermath of another mass shooting in the United States turns the page.
"I hope it's different," Carisa De Anda said.
While O'Bryan also says she is hopeful change will come, Luciana De Anda is confident change is around the corner.
"I think it is going to be different. I think that things are going to change," she said. "My generation, we're coming in and we're turning 18 and we'll start voting. And when it happens to you, it changes a lot of people's perspective on, 'Wow, this isn't just something that happens on TV, it happened to me.'"