Oxford High School at one year: Ella Klimowicz’s resiliency


Ella Klimowicz poses with the stuffed wildcats she gifted to the students and staff of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas on behalf of the Oxford community.

Nov. 30, 2021 began as a normal day for Oakland University freshman Ella Klimowicz. It ended with her life being changed forever. 

Klimowicz is a student who attended Oxford High School that fateful day in which a mass shooting occurred that killed four students and injured seven. From then on, the eyes of the nation have been on the school, its staff and students. 

Klimowicz remembers the day feeling unreal. What occurred didn’t process for her right away. 

“Before it happened — everything seemed like a normal day,” Klimowicz said. “When it happened, I kind of was confused. It didn’t really hit me until later that night.” 

Klimowicz was a normal high school senior one day, and tied to people all across the country the next. She now had a bond with other survivors of school shootings from Parkland, Florida and Newtown, Connecticut, among others. They all shared comfort with Oxford as they became the next school to become a household name under grim circumstances. 

“People from Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine — different people would reach out to Oxford kids and show them support and talk to them,” Klimowicz said. 

Klimowicz had to take on the role of comforting other survivors of school shootings far too soon when on May 24, 2022, a mass shooting occurred at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students, two teachers and injured 17 others. Klimowicz was angry that what she went through at Oxford happened again so soon, and this time to children as young as nine. 

“I was watching TV and I went into shock again — like it happened all over again,” Klimowicz said. “The fact that it was elementary students, little babies — it really sucked.”

Klimowicz’s anger fueled her to do something to help the survivors of the shooting in Uvalde cope with what they went through, aside from extending a hand. She thought about what helped her cope in her time of need — therapy dogs, blankets and stuffed animals. 

“I started talking to my family and I was like, ‘what if I gave them stuffed animals? Everyone loves stuffed animals regardless, if you’re younger or older, guy or girl,’” she said. “And they were like, ‘oh, that’s a really good idea.’” 

Klimowicz researched how much stuffed wildcats — Oxford’s school mascot — would be per unit and how many students she would be buying for. She then set up a GoFundMe that the Oxford community immediately rallied behind. 

Although she had the support of the local community, the GoFundMe didn’t truly take flight until Klimowicz’s story was featured on ABC News. Within a couple of days of the broadcast, Klimowicz had raised over $20,000 — more than enough to purchase the stuffed wildcats for the children of Uvalde.

“So I was like, ‘okay, now I gotta do something else,’” Klimowicz said. “So I bought little worry stones on Amazon and I wanted to give them to all of the teachers and the staff at Robb Elementary. We still had leftover money, so I gave $250 visa gift cards to all of the displaced teachers.”

Alongside the stuffed wildcats and worry stones, Klimowicz also spent a majority of her summer break writing cards for all of the students. She had the opportunity to hand-deliver them this past September when she traveled to Uvalde, Texas. The highlight for Klimowicz was meeting with some of the students.

“[My favorite part was] being able to see their reaction when they got the stuffed animal,” she said. “I met a couple people I still talk to to this day. Even though they’re fourth graders, we still communicate.” 

Klimowicz says her relationship with the Uvalde community changed her. She learned that positivity can come from the negativity that occurred nearly a year ago at Oxford High School.

“It made me realize that if you want to [do something], you can,” Klimowicz said.