Former teacher who left Florida after Parkland shooting faces another tragedy in Colorado: ‘It’s happening again’

Julie Finkelstein, a former Florida teacher, experiences another school shooting in Colorado. (Photo: WSVN)
Julie Finkelstein, a former Florida teacher, experiences another school shooting in Colorado. (Photo: WSVN)

“It’s happening again,” Julie Finkelstein, who recently left her teaching job in Florida following the 2018 Parkland shooting, said after STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado faced a similar tragedy.

Finkelstein taught at Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s sister school, J.P. Taravella High School, in Coral Park, Fla. for 12 years before the Parkland shooting took place. According to The Denver Post, Finkelstein worked with a number of victims of the Parkland shooting and experienced lockdowns at the sister school. Eventually, because she feared for he safety, she left her job.

But even after making a more than 1,000 mile move and drastic career change (she took a job as a bartender), Finkelstein couldn’t escape gun violence. “Is this following me?” she rhetorically asked.

On Tuesday, nearly 30 STEM School Highlands Ranch students ran into Finkelstein’s place of work, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, after shots were fired on their campus.

Although Finkelstein needed to take a deep breath to keep herself from panicking, she ended up helping the restaurant’s manager, Jimmy Gibson, organize the students.

Finkelstein, The Denver Post reports, had students sign in and then helped them contact their parents. Once they were picked up, they then signed out to ensure that they were safe.

“It’s hard and it’s heartbreaking and it’s sad and it’s disturbing,” Finkelstein said following the incident.

Because of their proximity to the shooting, the restaurant is making every effort to help the community heal and memorialize the one student who died, Kendrick Castillo.

Josh Kern, who works for Rock Bottom’s parent company CraftWorks as the chief experience officer, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the chain is going to donate 10 percent of sales from all of the restaurant’s Denver locations to the official Kendrick Castillo memorial fund on Wednesday, May 15, to show support for the STEM School where Kern’s son attended a couple of years ago. The restaurant’s manager, Gibson, also plans to host a local event for STEM School families in the fall.

As for Finkelstein, whose son is finishing coursework online because of his fear of walking into a school again, the healing process might be more challenging.

“It’s going to be a tough road,” Gibson said. “It’s important to keep our kids safe and important to do whatever it takes to keep them safe.”

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