MARTINEZ, Ga.– This country has witnessed tragedy after tragedy involving guns, racism, sexual orientation, and terrorism. We felt it after the church shooting in Charleston one year ago… then again after the San Bernadino shooting. But before those killings, we grieved the 13 lives lost at Columbine High School… the loss of 20 little children, and 6 adults, at Sandy Hook Elementary School… the 32 lives violently cut short in the Virginia Tech shooting.
And that one hit close to home.
Ryan Clark, from Martinez, was killed that day: April 16, 2007. He was a senior with a 4.0 GPA, he was a triple-major and a member of the Marching Virginians college band.
Letitie Clark knows what it’s like to get the dreaded news that a loved one has been involved in a mass shooting… she got it about her son, Ryan.
She says every time she hears about a mass shooting in the news, it opens the floodgates of emotion. But she is speaking out because she understands how those victims’ families are feeling.
One way she honors her son’s memory is through a scholarship in his name.
This April, she’s rallying Columbia and Richmond County schools to sponsor a Hat Day, where students can pay $1 and wear a hat (teachers pay $5 to wear jeans!) and the funds raised will go to the scholarship endowment.
“When tragedy strikes it’s no time to lay down. It’s time to go forward and do something for others,” said Letitie Clark, mother of Ryan Clark who was killed during Virginia Tech shootings.
It’s been that attitude that Letitie Clark’s showcased even more since losing her son, Ryan Clark in a tragic shooting while attending college.
“10 years ago when my son was taken at Virginia Tech, I wanted to enhance that, and enhance my community just a little bit more. And to be a person to say that even though bad things happen, that’s no time to quit. That you are supposed to just to continue and give back,” said Clark.
“I think that she’s the kind of person that we all should strive to be. I think most of us would fall short of that,” said Julie Miller, Director of Columbia County Community Connections.
Julie Miller is the director of Columbia County Community Connections. She’s seen first hand Letitie’s efforts to help others. Starting with the Ryan Clark Scholarship and Community Services Award.
“It’s encouraging young people to look behind themselves, to look out in their community and see where they can make an impact. And that is an incredible tribute to Ryan because that was his spirit,” said Miller.
“It gives me chills. I’m always pleased and excited. But it saddens me so much,” said Clark.
In it’s 9 years of existence more than $20,000 has been raised with countless students in the CSRA benefiting from it.
“It can afford a computer for your first year all the way through college. It can buy books, it can feed you. And a hungry child can not learn. So if it feeds you then we have accomplished our goal,” said Clark.
Letitie says her faith has been her foundation in being able to turn a tragedy into triumph – something she hopes others who may ever face her same heartbreaking situation can learn from.
“If what I do helps one person, helps a family feel better, just one day…then I think I’ve succeeded,” said Clark.