Covina Christmas shooting survivor Katrina Yuzefpolsky hopes walkout leaves lasting impact

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- Among the dozens of students standing in silence outside La Salle High School, Katrina Yuzefpolsky participated and honored the 17 lives lost a month ago in Parkland, Florida.

Nearly 10 years ago, she survived a Christmas Eve massacre when she was 8.

"Being able to really fight for something that is truly, truly close to my heart is very different," she said.

The 17-year-old was at her family's home in Covina, when her aunt's ex-husband came dressed as Santa Claus and armed with four semi-automatic weapons. He began shooting before setting the home on fire, killing nine of her family members.

Yuzefpolsky was shot in the face.

"Another one of my cousins had been shot and it's not something I needed to know all the details to. I just knew I had to keep fighting and I knew that I would live my life to the fullest for each one of my family members and everybody affected by gun violence," she said.

She hopes to help others fighting the same battle and credits her mother's faith with shaping her perspective.

"Especially with Christmas time, it's been something of light now. It's something my family continues to celebrate instead of look down upon," she said.

Her classmate, Isabella Mares, who is Pasadena's 100th Rose Queen, asked Yuzefpolsky for help. The two shot a video asking others to join them.

"We wanted to walk out of our schools not necessarily to protest our personal schools, but to protest against gun violence and to show respect to those who lost their lives on Feb. 14," Mares said.

The girls hope Wednesday's walkout will have a lasting impact on their peers and send a message to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"You're left here on this Earth for a reason. You're left here for a purpose and your job is to keep fighting and to shine that light on everybody else that has been affected," Yuzefpolsky said.
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