For most UT students, the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. was terrible enough.
For Genna Rossi, however, the massacre was much closer to home: she attended Sandy Hook.
"When I was a kid, it was a great place to be...it was just very welcoming. Our sign actually says 'Visitors Welcome,' which is now kind of ironic," Rossi, senior in marketing, said. "We all lived near each other, and everyone was really closely knit. It just makes me sad; obviously, these kids won't get to experience the same great school that I went to."
Rossi did a lot of voluntary baby-sitting during the weeks after the shooting, as many parents had funerals to attend. She spent time looking after Sophia, five, who escaped the shooting. Sophia's friend told her to run when the gunman began reloading.
"She was telling it like a story, which was pretty surreal. And I could tell that she was bothered by it because she kept bringing it up, that she wanted to make cards for her teacher and friends who were victims," Rossi said. "Every time she heard a voice or someone upstairs, she would run to the corner of the room and sit down. I had to tell her she couldn't eat dinner in the corner. It was really hard; I'd never had to deal with anything like that."
In an effort to support children like Sophia, Rossi is selling wrist bracelets emblazoned with the phrase "Newtown Angels." The fundraiser was started by one of her childhood friends' older sister. Rossi bought a few for herself and her family, but she soon saw opportunity farther south.
"My friends here were asking how they could help, and I figured, 'Hey, why not sell the wrist bands here too?' There's so many supportive people down here, so I thought it'd be a good idea just to see if people wanted to help," Rossi said.
The proceeds from the bands will help the victims' families with burial services, as well as contribute to the Sandy Hook Memorial Scholarship and a town memorial fund.
Rossi, the former president of Phi Mu, has visited five fraternities and sororities since school started, leaving a sign up sheet and collection envelope with each group's president. She plans to visit 10 more Greek organizations before the end of the fundraiser on Jan. 31.
Christina Boyer, senior in accounting and the president of Chi Omega, said Rossi's presentation to her sorority was met with enthusiasm.
"As college students, we don't have that much cash laying around, but everyone is so willing to give to this cause. The sign-up sheet was completely filled up," Boyer said.
The Chi O sisters raised roughly $80 after Rossi's visit, and Boyer said there are more girls waiting on a second sign-up sheet.
"It's a subject matter anyone can relate to, we've all been to elementary school," she said. "This kind of thing isn't supposed to happen to children. It just gives you a different perspective on life ... nobody is invincible."
Boyer is a member of the Global Leadership Scholars program, along with Rossi. The two are close friends.
"If you know Genna at all, she's a really passionate person. She puts her heart into everything," Boyer said. "It's been a really hard month for her and her community, so it's really cool that she's channeling it into something like this."
If interested in buying a bracelet or donating to the cause, visit www.giveforward.com/newtownstrongnewtownproud/.