Two years after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland has become a national metaphor for school shootings and senseless gun violence. Once a quaint South Florida town, it has now been transformed into a community of activists charged with a civic and parental mission to enact real and meaningful change – all because of the events that took place on February 14th, 2018, and the strong desire to prevent other cities from experiencing the same. Their efforts go beyond legislative change for gun law reforms, and include greater school safety measures and enhancements, infrastructure for mental health support programs, and much more.
On June 30, 2020, FOLCS was able to bring this program to its virtual stage after being postponed from February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Special guests included the father of Gina Montalto and President of Stand with Parkland, Mr. Tony Montalto; Mayor of Parkland, Christine Hunschofsky; Commissioner of Broward County, Michael Udine; and the Boston Globe‘s Metro Columnist, Adrian Walker, in conversation on the Parkland shooting, its aftermath, the community’s response, and the changes that its members continue to work toward.
This event was produced in partnership with the New York Film Academy.
President, Stand with Parkland
Tony Montalto is the father of 14-year-old Gina Rose Montalto, who was a victim at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.
He is President of Stand with Parkland – The National Association of Families for Safe Schools, an advocacy group founded by families that lost a loved one in the Parkland, FL shooting. The organization promotes a unique, inclusive, and all-encompassing approach to safer schools by advocating for improved campus safety, improved mental health programs, and responsible firearm ownership.
In honor of his daughter, Tony is also President of the Gina Rose Montalto Memorial Foundation, Inc. Tony and his wife, Jennifer, established this foundation to keep Gina’s light shining by helping others through scholarships and awards.
Tony has been a captain for a major airline for over 30 years, flying both international and domestic routes. He has been seen on many local news broadcasts for ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS affiliates. Nationally, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, CBSN’s “Red and Blue.” Tony has also published several Op Ed pieces featured in Newsweek and The Washington Post.
Mayor of Parkland
Christine Hunschofsky was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She attended high school at Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in the United States, college at Boston University, earning Bachelor’s Degrees in Business Administration and Philosophy, and then went on to earn her MBA at Babson College. While at Babson, she was an Ernst and Young Accounting Award recipient.
Together with her husband Hannes, Christine moved to Parkland in 2000, where the couple raised their sons Michael and John. Once in Parkland, she quickly became active in the South Florida community. Most recently, she was elected Mayor of the City of Parkland in November 2016. She is only the second woman Mayor in Parkland history and the first in more than 30 years. She was reelected without opposition in November 2018. Prior to her election as Mayor, she served as the elected Parkland District 2 City Commissioner from 2013 through 2016.
Mayor Hunschofsky’s service to Parkland began when she served for seven years on the City’s Education Advisory Board starting in 2006. During this time, she initiated the City of Parkland Scholarship Program and spearheaded a citywide anti-bullying campaign and Walk to School Day. She continues to serve on the Broward County Public School Board Oversight Committee, the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the Broward League of Cities School and Community Public Safety Task Force.
Prior her first election in 2013, Mayor Hunschofsky covered the Parkland City Commission for Parkland Life Magazine for the preceding 10 years, giving her an in-depth understanding and background of city government. Additionally, she participated in the Good Government Initiative and served on her Homeowners’ Association Board. She is a member of the Greater Broward Pap Corps, the Parkland Friends of the Library, the Mary Help of Christians Women’s Club, and she serves on the Advisory Board for In Jacob’s Shoes. In March 2019, she was inducted into the Broward County Women’s Hall of Fame. Mayor Hunschofsky is also a supporter of Speech and Debate programs in schools, and judges at local and national tournaments throughout the year.
Commissioner of Broward County
Michael Udine is a change agent, constantly reaching beyond the norm to embrace and recognize trends that transform communities. His long-standing career as an attorney and dedication to public service is distinct and notable for two reasons: his legacy of success and an unexpected tragedy of national proportions.
Michael was elected to serve as a Broward County Commissioner in 2016. Politics was not new to him, he formerly served, for more than a decade, as the Mayor and City Commissioner of Parkland, Florida. Under his city leadership, Parkland was named one of the Safest Cities in South Florida, the Best City for Families and an Environmentally Proud City. His legal expertise was highly publicized when he worked with the State Legislature to successfully annex 500 acres from adjacent Palm Beach County. It was one of the largest and most complicated land transfers in Florida’s history. Then history took a turn. On February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became synonymous with one of the worst mass school shootings in the United States. Thirteen months earlier, a lone gunman stepped off a plane and shot and killed five people at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport.
As the national stage was set for widespread public debate over student safety, gun ownership, armed school personnel and a sharp uptick in teenage violence, people demanded change and they found a champion in Commissioner Udine. In Broward County, he pushed through and finalized the completion of a new state of the art 911 Emergency Communications system that had been delayed for years. Text to 911 was launched, enabling people to text an emergency to law enforcement if it’s not safe to verbally communicate. Active shooter training is now mandated for county employees serving the public and emergency alert systems are now in place to safely and systematically manage people during a crisis. A new school building is slated for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and through a collaboration with cultural institutions new parks, art displays, and memorials have been created. Charitable organizations have teamed with mental health experts to provide counseling and services to a community that is still grieving.
Broward County is the second largest county in Florida and its population is larger than 14 states and the District of Columbia. As a practicing attorney and owner of the law firm Udine and Udine, the Commissioner promotes small business ownership and is currently focusing his attention on attracting technology-based industry to Broward County to encourage future innovation and high paying, skilled jobs. He is an ardent supporter of funding for the Innovation Hub at Nova Southeastern University, he supported local companies competing in the Steve Case Rise of the Rest competition and recently received the 2019 Distinguished Leader Award from the Florida Atlantic University Research Park. Mr. Udine is currently an elected director at Legacy Bank of Florida, a small community bank assisting small businesses in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
Michael and his wife Stacey reside in Parkland, Florida. They have three children who all attended local public schools in District 3. His son, David, is a UF graduate in the Commercial Real Estate business in South Florida. Matt is currently attending the University of Florida and is studying medicine. His daughter Lexi is attending UF where she is majoring in Education. Michael values a balanced life between his professional career, public responsibilities, and spending time with his family. Commissioner Udine is active in volunteering and attending events throughout the community. He prides himself on promoting local events in his district, working with his temple (Kol Tikvah), and supporting various charities.
Columnist, Boston Globe
Adrian Walker is a Boston Globe columnist, focusing on politics and local news. A native of Miami, he joined the Globe in 1989 as a general assignment reporter, after three years at the Miami News. He was the Globe’s City Hall bureau chief, State House reporter, and deputy political editor before becoming a Metro columnist in 1998. Walker was a member of the Globe Spotlight Team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2018 for the series “Boston. Race. Image. Reality.”