Middle school students organize walkout

Protest focuses on inclusivity, intersectionality

Eighth+graders+Anisa+Kahlin%2C+Dalilah+Gudino+and+Precious+Wheeler+speak+at+the+walkout+at+the+middle+school+May.+11.+The+speakers+advocated+for+inclusivity.

Ayelet Prottas

Eighth graders Anisa Kahlin, Dalilah Gudino and Precious Wheeler speak at the walkout at the middle school May. 11. The speakers advocated for inclusivity.

Andrea Melear and Molly Schochet

After hearing about the walkout at Park April 19, eighth grader Dalilah Gudino said she wanted to organize a walkout for the middle school to bring attention to Black Lives Matter as well as other social justice causes.  

“Unfortunately, we did not get to do every race and every problem and we didn’t get to spread awareness of everything, but we just wanted to spread awareness to communities that are struggling and in need,” Gudino said. 

Students were equipped with the ability to hold the walkout after taking Keystone, an anti-racist student leadership development course that helps students learn how to facilitate courageous conversations about race, according to Keystone teacher Robert Hansen.

“There was the walkout before, and a lot of kids didn’t know about it so this was kind of a reaction to people saying ‘well I wish we could do another one that we knew about’ and so the Keystone kids basically took it upon themselves to lead that,” Hansen said. “I was impressed with probably about 95 percent of the kids that came out, a lot of kids were in red, a lot of people showing support.”

I hope people in sixth grade and seventh grade get their attention and they can keep moving it along, during a protest at least once a year”

— Jocelyn Acevedo

Despite struggling to work with administration to plan the walkout, seventh grader A’mari Jennings was motivated to make the event happen. 

“What inspired me was my friend Grant and I really wanted to speak out about this and I didn’t know how to get it out. I thought ‘well this could be like a good first step, especially since it’s a big first step,’” Jennings said.

Students mainly worked on speeches and other plans for the walkout during Keystone periods, according to seventh grader Grant Hudson. 

“When the high school did it, we wanted to do a big organized one with our school, so our whole school command supported this,” Hudson said. “Basically, we just used all of our periods in Keystone to plan it and we took two weeks to hang posters and really get the word out about it.”

Despite feeling unheard during certain parts of the presentation, eighth grader Anisa Kahin said she appreciated what her classmates said to her after the walkout. 

“The best part of it, honestly, was the end when people were clapping, and people have just come up to us to apologize that they were being disrespectful,” Kahin said.

Although many of her peers came off as disrespectful during the walkout, eighth grader Jocelyn Acevedo said some of those students owned up to their actions and apologized.

“Some people actually were talking while we were talking. That was pretty disrespectful, but some people came up to us and apologized, and I just felt great because they were apologizing for the actions,” Acevedo said. 

Acevedo said she hopes this walkout inspires her younger classmates to continue to speak up for those around them and in their community.

“I hope people in sixth grade and seventh grade get their attention and they can keep moving it along, during a protest at least once a year,” Acevedo said.

Hansen said he is proud of the work the students put into the event and was excited to see it finally come together. 

“I thought kids did for the most part, for middle schoolers, did a really good job just trying to stay focused, stay on task,” Hansen said. “The crowd was good and healthy and I think people enjoyed this, (to) speak some truths that everybody thinks about.”