Memories of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the tragic Valentine’s Day shooting last year are those of pain and heartbreak for many people. For former students Jason and Stephanie Hoffman, however, the school has a special place in their hearts because it was there that their love story began ten years ago.
The two Seniors did not know each other until they were paired up by their teacher, Ivy Schamis, for a project in their World Geography class. Schamis said she didn’t see any chemistry between them. “It was a big surprise being invited to the wedding,” Schamis said. She not only taught Jason but his two sisters as well. The connection with Schamis and the Hoffman family grew following the shooting. Schamis’ lost two of her students that day. Cheryl Hoffman, Jason’s mother, was instrumental in helping Schamis cope and restore her classroom supplies through various fundraising activities.
Schamis, who has been teaching at Marjory Stoneman Douglas for 18 years, said Jason and Stephanie are inspirational and she uses their story as an example when she pairs students for group projects. Schamis purposely does this to bring students together who might not connect otherwise.
Schamis shared the story of Lexi Gendron and Helena Ramsay, whom she paired for a project in her Holocaust class. The class was given old pictures from the Holocaust showing shoes, clothing, luggage, and other personal belongings of the victims. The assignment was to create stories of what their lives might have been like. Lexi and Helena fabricated a salacious story of a couple but when it came time to share the story, Helena was concerned that it was disrespectful. Helena would be one of the 17 victims on February 14. Following the shooting, Lexi tearfully went to Schamis thanking her for pairing the two for the project saying that “she would never have had that memory with her” otherwise.
On November 10, 2018, Jason and Stephanie came home to marry at the Parkland Golf and Country Club. A large Marjory Stoneman Douglas flag served as a backdrop for a photo opportunity to be shared with their Eagle family. The couple chose to remember those lost by donating a portion of their monetary wedding gifts as a tribute. They will be working closely with Schamis to determine where the need lies for extra resources.
Jason and Stephanie were deeply affected by the shooting. The two speak of how difficult the tragedy is to comprehend because of the number of friends and family who grew up in the school. The pair never imagined that during the wedding preparations they would be dealing with unimaginable events including the funeral of Jason’s football coach, Aaron Feis. “He was a big part of my life,” Jason said. As we continue to grieve for such a tragic loss, perhaps in healing we can all take a cue from Schamis and reach out to a stranger. You never know how much you might gain.