Students Launch Last Straw Campaign for Gun Control Awareness

From left, students Meaghan Garrigal ’15, Lea DeRosa ’15, Anthony Tartaglia ’16 and Stefani Wren ’16 have developed the Last Straw Campaign on campus to raise awareness about gun control in the wake of the Newtown tragedy in December.

News Story: March 19, 2013

Amid a widespread gun control controversy sweeping the country, a group of Sacred Heart University students have come up with an innovative way to create awareness on their own. Students from Professor Steven Michels’ Intro to American Government class have developed the Last Straw Campaign. Their goal is to collect 100,000 straws to represent the 100,000 gun victims in the United States each year.

Professor Michels’ original project was a group assignment to create a simulated public event in an area representing gun control, education, transportation, energy, health care or the environment. The group that took on gun control – sophomores Lea DeRosa, Meaghan Garrigal and freshmen Kyle Martin, Anthony Tartaglia and Stefani Wren – decided they could turn their idea into more than just a classroom project. “My classmates and I really hope that this project will expand to other schools, other towns and even other states,” Wren said.

The group came up with the idea of creating a Facebook group and Twitter account to take advantage of the widespread use of social media in the world today. Michels not only liked their idea, but wanted them to take it a step further. “What the group came up with was so simple and clever that I thought we had to actually do it. It would have been a shame not to do it, and the group was thrilled when I suggested that they go ahead with it. While everyone else was away for spring break, we spent our time sending e-mails back and forth to get our game plan in order,” he said.

The class assignment has blossomed into a campus-wide campaign headed by the five group members. “I was talking about how the Sandy Hook tragedy should have been the last straw, and then it hit us. We decided we should start a campaign called The Last Straw,” Wren said.

With the accumulation of “likes” on the Facebook page, following the Twitter account and having individuals send in their own straws, the group hopes to demonstrate their support for restrictions on gun ownership. “We hope to expand this campaign and become known, so that hopefully we can make a difference and really try to put an end to it. I, along with my group members and the rest of the class, are working toward getting our campaign known not only locally, but trying to expand to other places as well,” Wren added.

The group hopes to have 100,000 straws by December 14, 2013, which will be the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shootings. The Facebook page was established on February 25, and already has more than 300 “likes.” The campaign also has already begun receiving straws. Once they have reached their deadline, the students intend to take their awareness one step further. “We want to deliver the straws to Congress in Washington D.C., on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy. We want to end instances such as Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora and so many more from happening by making a change and taking a stand. Make your straw the last straw,” said Tartaglia.

Michels continues to be impressed with the work and dedication of all his students. “The class is learning about American government from the perspective of what it means to be an active and responsible citizen—engaged in the real work on communities: learning about issues, having their voices heard and, hopefully, making a difference. It’s been a great deal of work, and we haven’t even really started counting yet. But it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a teacher. I think this is college education at its best,” he said.

Donated straws can be sent to the Sacred Heart mailroom at Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, CT 06825.

Watch WTNH's coverage of the Last Straw Campaign at 5:08:56 in this video clip.