Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Jaclyn Corin says, "The 17 people who lost their lives at my school are always on my mind"

By Elaine Aradillas
February 13, 2019 02:56 PM

Like a typical high school senior, Jaclyn Corin is focused on studying Macbeth, getting ready for prom and anxiously waiting for college acceptance letters.

But unlike most teens, Corin’s day begins when she drives to her school’s campus and sees a memorial dedicated to the 17 students and staff who were fatally shot last year. She parks her car, walks past that building and heads to the front door to show her identification. Throughout the day, between classes, she knows she can pet any of the therapy dogs that share the halls.

“Grief is a part of my new normal,” Corin, 18, tells PEOPLE. “The 17 people who lost their lives at my school are always on my mind.”

Corin is one of about 3,300 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are preparing to solemnly mark the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at their Parkland, Fla., school last Feb. 14. At school, the administration and students will observe a moment of silence and encourage everyone to participate in a day of service.

Corin plans to spend the day away from school with one of her best friends, the person she was with with when the shooting started in Building 12 at 2:19 p.m. last year.

“Valentine’s Day is no longer a holiday I will ever celebrate,” she says wistfully. “It’s even harder knowing the world is celebrating a day of love and friendship when for you, it’s the direct opposite.”

Since the shooting, she says, she has learned to practice self-care and take a step back when she feels overwhelmed emotionally.

Jaclyn Corin
Jeff Vespa

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She was an original member of the students who spearheaded the March for Our Lives, a student-led movement to advocate for gun violence prevention. Corin says the organization underscores the ability of young people to create change.

“The people I know now are going to be the people who are senators and house members one day. It’s cool to know that so many young people are determined,” she says. “Our generation is not the slackers we were once thought to be. We’re motivated and we’re hungry for change.”

She continues to keep in touch with the other members of the group, which includes Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, among others.

“We have a group chat. We talk all the time,” she says.

Everyone from Parkland has a unique, unfortunate bond, she says. On Thursday, they will turn to each other for support as they remember those whose lives were taken.

“They’re not victims. They’re people. They’re human beings who were dancers, soccer players, musicians, teachers, coaches,” Corin says. “The movement is always about them and all the people that have lost their lives to gun violence.”