Over seven years ago – shortly after Emilie’s death – I had a sleepless night that would forever change my life. That evening, Michele Gay and I had been discussing the tragedy at Sandy Hook and how we desperately wanted other school communities to learn from our experience. That one idea – after years of countless hours and hard work –became what is now Safe and Sound Schools. From the beginning Michele and I both felt like we were called to do this work and knew there would be many uncertainties about where that road would take us. Now looking back at what we have been able to accomplish, I am so incredibly proud of our work both as an organization and as individuals. This journey has not only changed me professionally – but also spiritually, helping me along my personal journey through grief and into healing.
As I stand here today a different person, a stronger person, I feel a familiar pull. That pull that once called me to school safety is now pulling me in an entirely new direction. At first, I strongly resisted that feeling. Safe and Sound Schools has become my second family and I LOVE the work we do! How could I ever step away?
But the pull continued. Over time, through a lot of reflection, and many long talks, I have been able to open my heart and my eyes to see a new journey ahead. As I move forward on this new path, I will step away from an active role within Safe and Sound Schools. Change is always hard—especially on this scale! And if I am being honest, I am both nervous and excited about this new direction. I will be spending more time with my family and continuing to work on my own personal healing.
With Michele leading the way, I am confident that our mission and our organization are in great hands. She has done an incredible job over the years as our Executive Director and will continue to do amazing work. For over eight years she has been my partner, my confidant, my friend, and above all else, my sister. Our daughters brought us together and that connection has bonded us forever. I love her and our Safe and Sound family dearly.
Safe and Sound was our gift to Emilie and Joey and I am proud of the legacy we have created to honor both of their lives. And though I will step away from my role on the team, I will never be far! You will still see me cheering from the sidelines, occasionally popping in, and watching this important work continue to change school communities across the nation.
Alissa Parker is the Co-Founder of Safe and Sound Schools, a school safety advocate, and author of An Unseen Angel: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing After Sandy Hook.