There are a million ways to make a difference in the world. A month after a shooting left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the survivors of the shooting – along with their families, supporters – and the memory of those lost, are still leading national conversations about gun control and school safety.
Adam Buchwald and Zach Hibshman are two of those students. And they want parents, guardians, grandparents and other adults to put their commitment to a safer future in writing.
The two high school juniors created Parents Promise to Kids or #PPTK, a movement that features a contract parents can sign saying they pledge to vote for legislators who, in the words of Buchwald and Hibshman, put child safety over guns.
“We were just thinking of ways we could cause change,” Hibshman told CNN, “And we came upon the world ‘promise.’”
The word stuck with them, because it emphasized something the students have stressed time and time again – safety, especially when it comes to children and young people, is a group effort.
“Besides,” Buchwald adds, “What parent would ever break a promise?”
The idea goes viral in days
The idea was particularly personal to Buchwald, because sadly, the Parkland shooting was not the first time such a tragedy had touched his life.
“I went to middle school in Newtown when Sandy Hook happened,” he says. After the Parkland shooting, he spoke to students and family members from that community. When the idea of a contract took root, Buchwald says his parents and Hibshman’s parents were totally on board, and helped them create a site and put together materials for a mission and execution.
There are three contracts: A parent contract, a grandparent contract and a general contract. Buchwald and Hibshman say they are open to the idea of other types of contracts as well.
The contracts are simple. The parent version reads:
“I [parent name(s)] promise to [child name(s)] that I/We will vote for legislative leaders who support our children’s safety over guns!”
While participants can certainly print it and keep it among family or friends, Buchwald and Hibshman encourage people to take pictures of their contract and share them online, tagging the @parentspromise Twitter account and engaging with other people’s posts.
“We work on three different platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter” Hibshman says. “Twitter has by far been the most influential, because it acts like a web. You just have to get one post going and the movement just expands.”
True to the group effort spirit, the Parkland student activists support each other and signal boost each other’s work. The two teens say the contract got a huge boost from posts by prominent activists David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez. Not long after, celebrities like Alyssa Milano and George Takei joined in on the call.
“Adam and I say down and we just started our planning of the organization two weeks ago,” Hibshman says.
Two weeks, and they have already received word of more than 1,000 contracts – signed, sealed, delivered, promised.
Persistence is the key
When it comes to the contracts, one of the main messages is one of bipartisanship, and in that, the two teens see longevity and strength.
“It’s not about Democrats and it’s not about Republicans,” Hibshman says. “We’re not trying to attack people. We are in favor of common sense gun laws, and think children’s safety being put over guns isn’t an issue for one side or another.”
Inevitably, though, it is construed as a partisan issue and the hate and abuse that has been leveled at the Parkland students as they speak out and campaign in different forms has definitely found its way to Buchwald and Hibshman’s movement.
“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback, but we also get people saying nasty stuff. We just ignore it,” Buchwald says.
“The negative is actually pushing us to try harder,” Hibshman adds. “It helps us realize that people do care, they’re not just ignoring it. If they have something to hate, it means they still care.”
In a news cycle that processes mass shootings with shocking predictability and speed, the Parkland students have stuck their hands in the spokes. That’s by design. That’s the point.
In that goal, the two teens behind Parents Promise to Kids found another guiding word: Persistence.
“Zach and I have said this whole time, persistence is key,” Buchwald says.
“After a lot of tragedies happen, there’s a lot of heat and then it dies down and fades away,” says Hibshman. “But Adam and I, and I think i can speak for the rest of the MSD students, we are not going to let this go.”
CORRECTION: This story has been revised to give the correct name of the @parentspromise Twitter account.