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Shooting Survivor Wants to Spotlight First Responders

Gabby Flores, right, survived the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Nov. 2018.

Gabby Flores is a Navy kid and CLU soccer player. Her dad’s 24-year Navy career gave her fundamentals of honor and service, but her real strength came after a devastating, life-changing event. 

After the event, Flores decided to focus on a career in emergency management; she wants to highlight everything first responders do for their communities, and raise funds to support them. 

As a finalist for the Spring 2019 scholarship, you can read her essay here. 


Turning Tragedy to Strength by Gabby Flores

Being the child of a military service member has shaped me into the college student I am today. The formation of my strong character is due to my father’s 25-year military service where he learned the values of courage, honor, service and leadership and then reinforced these values upon his family. This has been proven through the many challenges of being a military dependent which has included adjusting to a new environment and community every time we moved and attending four different schools before I started college. On top of that, my mother continually upheld these values even while my father was away on cruise encouraging my brother and I to do our best academically, socially, and athletically. These values as a result of the military community influence formed a firm foundation in me.

As a sophomore at California Lutheran University (CLU), majoring in Communications and minoring in Multimedia and as an athlete in the Division III Women’s Soccer Program for Cal Lutheran, the demand on my time, energy, and finances has proven to be constant and challenging pressure. For this reason, I made it a priority to focus harder on my academics and increased my physical fitness program to be able to face the tough competition of my sport. Due to my interest in the military, I also joined the Air Force ROTC program at UCLA but, unfortunately, was not able to continue to do my busy college schedule. Still, the experience was beneficial, and kept me in good shape both physically and mentally. What I was not aware of is that the strength and resiliency I was building was also preparing me for one of the most difficult and unexpected events of my life.

That life-altering event happened on November 7, 2018, the night I survived the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill Restaurant. Because of the support from my family, friends, first responders, law enforcement, counselors and the close-knit community of CLU and Thousand Oaks, I’ve been able to work through the trauma and I am more determined than ever on reaching my goals. I finished the Fall semester with a higher GPA. Athletically, I ended the soccer season ranked top 5 in the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer for goals against average and save percentage for 2018 in goalkeeper position. I was also recognized All-Conference for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and tied for fourth in the Cal Lutheran record books for solo shutouts. To help support my educational expenses and give back to the community, I ventured on my own by continuing to coach kids in soccer and working as a freelance photographer. I credit the values of courage and honor that I learned as a military dependent to being able to overcome these challenges. I also credit the morals and strong faith I was raised with to my ability to continue moving forward.

Gabby Flores.

Due to the tragedy of living through the mass shooting, watching the heroism and dedication of first responders, and the values of service and leadership embedded in me, I have revisited my interest of pursuing a public relations career in emergency management and feel I am more enthused than ever to finish my college education. I recently applied to volunteer for the Red Cross and Ventura County Fire Department in order to learn about their services,gain public relations experience, and enhance my public speaking skills by working with emergency, law enforcement, and government personnel.

One of my career goals is to create a documentary series using the skills I have learned in college and the advancements in technology, video production and multimedia we have today to bring to the audience the inside story on what a first responder faces every day. The film would follow various emergency personnel, from fire fighters to emergency room doctors,documenting their lives, contributions and dedication to their community. I also want to capture the victim’s experience after a disaster or traumatic event by documenting their perspective and appreciation for these courageous public servants. The film proceeds would benefit a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and donations in support of all first responders.

To read other essays like the one by Gabby Flores, click here.


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