One month after the deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas Highschool in Parkland, Florida, students all over the nation walked out of their classrooms in protest of lives lost. After graduating a few short months ago and being on break from college myself, I worried that I would not be able to be a part of this history-making day. Fortunately, I was able to attend the walkout at my previous school and what I witnessed not only encouraged but excited me.
This issue is non-partisan. These walkouts have nothing to do with who you voted for or who you'll vote for in the future. These walkouts are a matter of fact. Students are afraid to go to school. Even during a "lockdown" drill, you can feel the tension and concern make its way through each classroom. Students have lost friends, family members, teachers, coaches, and principals. We have seen time and time again the words "thoughts and prayers go out to ____" in the wake of a tragedy where some child or adult is stripped of their most basic right, their right to life.
As someone who has never had to experience the kind of loss that parallels these horrific events, I wondered how I would feel witnessing the events of Wednesday morning. What I realized, is how relevant this issue is even to those who have not personally suffered. As I stood on the pavement overlooking hundreds of my prior classmates, teachers, and administrators, I realized what a tragedy like this would mean for my school.
I watched as our speaker called for a moment of silence and hundreds of students stayed completely still. You could hear a pin drop in the presence of hundreds. I witnessed tear-filled eyes and shaking hands as students spoke to one another. No phones in hand, no snapchat videos rolling, just conversation. I got to experience and take part in unity and activism in its most powerful form.
Stoneman Douglas has a student body enrollment of 3,158 whereas my school enrolled 2,453 this year. We come from similar towns and have experienced similar things as a school community. My school is not too different from Stoneman Douglas and frankly, not many other schools are either. We are all students that strive for graduation, for college, and to look back on high school as a time of overall happiness or at the very least, typical teenage struggle.
Looking back on the nationwide "walk-outs" myself, I am incredibly proud of the younger generations. I am in awe of their dedication and willingness to take a stand when the adults around them refuse. I spoke to liberal students and conservative students, to outgoing students and quiet students. I spoke to students that could give you every statistic on gun violence in the U.S. and students that felt less passionate about the statistics and more passionate about the lives lost. Never before have students taken a stand and felt called as they were today and I am incredibly optimistic looking forward.
Despite what you may hear on the news there is no perfect answer. In my opinion, these walk-outs were in the name of safety and unity rather than specific policy change. For so long, students young and old have been considered uninterested in the things taking place in our country and for the first time, they are heard. We do not need members of Congress to make a change for us, we are going to make a change for ourselves.
I walked the halls of my old high school with the mentality that I would be an outsider looking in, but today I realize that I still am very much on the inside. To the young activists, don't stop. Stay involved. Remain informed and vote accordingly. Don't assume that just because you saw it on Facebook means it's true. Do not be a mouthpiece for your parent's views. Your friends are behind you, your school is behind you, your family is behind you, your nation is behind you, the world is behind you.
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