PARKLAND, Fla. — Samantha Fuentes walks with a cane after a bullet pierced her thigh and shrapnel hit her legs and face during the deadly shooting at South Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
But her injuries aren’t the reason she says she won’t finish her senior year there.
As her schoolmates returned Wednesday for the first day of classes since the Feb. 14 massacre, she did not. She’s withdrawing from the school — just months from graduation — intending instead to complete the requirements for her diploma with online courses.
All things weighed, she can’t see the point of going back.
“I want to be a part of Stoneman Douglas and I want to live out the rest of my high school career normally. But there’s no such thing as normal anymore,” she told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Wednesday morning, just off school grounds in Parkland.
“Curriculum is never going to resume as normal for the rest of the year.”
She says the shooting, which left 17 dead, has given her a new purpose: Advocating for tighter school security and gun control.
“As I’m recovering and taking my online courses, that’s when I’d like to take the chance to travel, and speak to large audiences, spread my message, speak to lawmakers, attend rallies, be everywhere I need to be so that people can hear me clearly,” she said.
For security, she wants “simple mechanisms we’ve had for ages, like bulletproof windows and metal detectors and live-footage security cameras” feeding video to the sheriff’s department and more security officers on school grounds.
She’d also like a ban on assault-style weapons, stronger background checks for gun buyers and raising the minimum age for buyers to 21.
But she’ll make her speeches as a former Stoneman Douglas student. And she’ll be carrying scars with her.
The shrapnel lodged behind her cheek and eye, she said, will not be taken out. “To remove them would be more invasive than to leave them,” Fuentes said, appearing on camera with a large, dark purple welt under her right eye.
Fuentes isn’t the only student talking about not coming back. About 15 students expressed interest in transferring to other schools in the district, Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said.
Fuentes has already been accepted to some colleges, but she has yet to pick one. She says she’s not worried about explaining why she’s withdrawing from Stoneman Douglas.
“I think they’re aware,” she said.