Jules Oringel recalls receiving panicked texts from two of her friends in Parkland, Fla. as an active shooter roamed the halls of their high school. She felt helpless as she watched the news from her home in Charlotte, texting her friends constantly to give them updates on what she saw on television.
Oringel, a senior at Providence High School, became involved in the gun violence prevention movement immediately after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Both of the friends texting her throughout the shooting made it out alive, but a member of Oringel’s sleepaway camp community was murdered in her English class.
Though she marched on Washington against gun violence, registered voters, campaigned for the 2018 midterm election and led a school walkout despite instructions from her school’s administration not to, Oringel felt like there was still more she could do for the gun violence prevention movement.
In June 2018, Oringel started Return Home Supplies, a nonprofit she runs from her bedroom. She said the organization is founded upon the belief that every student and teacher deserves to return home safely from school.
Oringel sells school supplies, including pencils and water bottles, with messages intended to spark educational conversations about gun violence. All of the profits go to gun violence prevention organizations like March For Our Lives and Moms Demand Action. Oringel also travels around the country with these organizations, where she sells Return Home Supplies and delivers speeches to people at rallies and meetings.
“I think the most important element of my advocacy is that I speak to people who disagree with me,” Oringel said. “I’ve spoken to countless National Rifle Association members and I find that we can always find at least some sort of common ground … Even if we just agree that we don’t want to see our students getting shot in schools, or even if it’s some sort of legislative agreement like disarming domestic abusers or requiring background checks for online purchases. It all matters and it’s helping depolarize this issue in American politics, which is also really meaningful.”
Networking and staying in touch with other activists and organizations has helped Oringel spread the message and mission of Return Home Supplies.
She does this all while balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Oringel said because she is dual-enrolled in college courses, she is able to leave high school early and work on projects for Return Home Supplies before going to her evening college classes.
“It can definitely be difficult to manage my classwork and Return Home Supplies responsibilities in addition to other extracurricular activities, but because I’m managing this myself, I have more control over my schedule and when I work on our website, product design, legal paperwork and all of those things,” Oringel said.
As she prepares to go to college in less than a year, Oringel knows there will be some difficulties running a nonprofit.
“I would love to continue running Return Home Supplies from my dorm room because all the incredible people I get to meet on this journey inspire me to keep fighting for what I believe in,” Oringel said. “However, my room is exploding with our school supplies and I don’t know if that will fit in a tiny dorm room. So I think in college, when I’m actually at the university, my advocacy will be focused more on speaking and rallying versus bringing school supplies to an event and selling them.”
Creating change starts with education, according to Oringel. She hopes to inspire others to lead programs to educate their communities about gun violence. Return Home Supplies offers an “activism in a box” kit for teens hoping to lead programs for their schools, organizations and other groups.
Moving forward, Oringel hopes to continue connecting with gun violence survivors, advocates and concerned Americans to spread her message.
“Until we start finding power and finding motivation beyond this movement, we won’t be seeing legislative changes in Congress,” Oringel said.
Oringel said persistence is key to creating change. Remembering the reasons for starting activism is a great motivator to keep persisting.
“It’s not always going to be easy, especially with an issue like gun violence,” Oringel said. “Seeing all of these mass shootings in the news can be depressing and make you feel like you’re not doing enough, but stay true to your passions and the reasons that you care so deeply about the issues you care so deeply about. Continue fighting until you see the change that you want to be had.”
Want to learn more?
Visit www.returnhomesupplies.com for more information.