After the events of February 14th at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the nation’s students felt a need to respond.
And respond they did.
On March 14th and March 24th, students from around the nation led and took part in major protests against gun violence.
On Wednesday, March 14th, thousands of young people across the nation carried heavy hearts because of the memories of those killed by gun violence as they walked out of school as part of the National Walkout.
The walkout marked the one month anniversary of the tragedy that struck Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where a lone gunman killed fourteen students and three staff members. Paint Branch, like many schools across the nation, participated in this walkout as hundreds of students gathered on the football field in a somber memorial.
At 10 AM, Paint Branch Students, many wearing the color orange, the color used to symbolize gun violence, left their classes and walked out to the football stadium where they gathered in a circle of unity. Students and staff members all stood outside, braving the cold temperatures and chilling wind to demonstrate their support for the #Enough movement, a movement created to speak out against gun violence. The walkout officially lasted 17 minutes, one minute dedicated to celebrate and remember each of the 17 people killed at Stoneman Douglas.
The walkout at Paint Branch began with a brief two minute speech from Dr. Yarborough, followed by a name reading, short bio, a balloon release and finally, a 30 second moment of silence for each of the 17 killed. Each name, each balloon, each moment stood as a salute and an unspoken promise made by the students at Paint Branch that neither them nor the nation will ever forget the names of those who were so brutally slain.
Manuel Custodio, a 9th grader who participated in the walkout, felt that the event was very important and noted that children of today are not going to stay silent or let their thoughts be oppressed. “They are going to be the roaring voices of change,” he said. “People always tell children that they are going to change the world someday, and children are already doing that. You shouldn’t be surprised that people want to feel safe at schools, and people should be proud of their children.”
Anna Lam and Tam Nguyen, also 9th graders, felt “It was a very meaningful event, and it made everyone reflect.”
Lam and Nguyen’s comments are poignant in that they represented the feelings of many of those on hand for the walkout. The events of March 14th and the subsequent march on March 24th showed the whole nation that teens shouldn’t be stereotyped or seen as a lost generation. These events showed the world that today’s teens are unafraid to stand up for their cause, and that they can invoke change that adults and politicians cannot.
On March 24th in Washington, DC and other cities around the nation, student-led rallies framed the conversation around how guns should be legislated.
Hundreds of thousands of young people and adults gathered in Washington, DC at a rally that featured speakers from around the nation including students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Great Mills High School. The rally began early with people arriving at the Capital building as early as 6AM. The feeling in the crowd was one of determination and unity, which grew with each person who arrived. Each speaker, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s grandaughter, talked about the importance of combatting gun violence nationwide.
Paint Branch junior Katelynn Morgan, who attended the rally in D.C., said that “the whole area was filled with unity. There was a willingness amongst the crowd that gave that feeling of unity and peace. Many adults kept saying ‘This generation is a force to be reckoned with, they gon’ be some world changers’ and I totally agree. If adults thought this was amazing, just wait until we’re old enough to run for office and vote. This is only the beginning.”