PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Vestal Elementary in NE Portland is highlighting the importance of teaching social justice to young students and sharing that with members of the community.

As this week’s shooting remains top-of-mind, they say it’s an important reminder of being able to come together.

Like many across the Metro and country, Vestal Elementary was left grieving after students and teachers were killed in this week’s horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Principal Sabrina Flamoe says that’s why tonight’s event was all the more special.

“This has been a really challenging week, all of us in the world, and especially at elementary schools. Just feeling a lot of grief, so this has been even more hopeful and exciting,” said Flamoe. “This week has been really tough so to highlight and be able to celebrate being together as a community has been really exciting.”

Today, Portland Public Schools responded to families following the Texas shooting, with the district’s own safety measures like classroom door locks, access-controlled doors and behavioral safety assessments. Vestal Elementary says while they hold lockdown drills and teach awareness, an important part of social justice is being able to attend school while feeling safe.

“All elementary schools do lockdown drills so we are talking about safety with our kids quite often and just being mindful and aware of your environment,” said Flamoe. “Yet we also want kids to feel comfortable and safe. This is an extension of their neighborhood and homes.”

Vestal Elementary has spent the year teaching students about social justice, including racial and environmental justice, as well as what’s happening in their communities. It all resulted in a year-end event highlighting what they’ve learned, along with creating community partnerships with organizations like non-profit Montavilla Jazz and The Yard at Montavilla food carts.

“The great thing about social justice is that it’s kind of common sense,” said Neil Mattson, executive director of Montavilla Jazz. “We all want to care about each other, care about our community and do things to help us learn how to make our world better.”

Flamoe says being a part of the community and coming together makes all the difference for her school’s young students.

“To have a community center or community hub or the school as a gathering place is always super important and is always a goal of ours, but especially this week, with so much heartache and grief, to be able to come together, and literally just be together,” said Flamoe.

Flamoe added that with Vestal being along a busy corridor like NE 82nd, safety concerns often come to mind, which is why they have extra precautions in place during school.