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#Enough walkout empowers teen initiative
City cooperates to ensure safety
March 15, 2018
Four years after domestic gun violence left her an orphan, senior Carly Livingston said she decided to come forward and publicly share her story at the #Enough walkout rally.
Learning through personal stories
Livingston joined four other speakers in addressing gun violence issues to approximately 450 people at Fire Station 1 after students walked out of school at 10:05 a.m. March 14. Student organizers and city officials coordinated safe pathways for students to travel to and from school.
Livingston said the walkout was necessary to inform students about current gun violence debates.
“Hearing somebody who you know or see around school — one of your peers — hearing something like I went through … it affects students in a different way,” Livingston said. “It kind of hits the point home that gun violence is so common, it can literally happen to anybody.”
Gun violence propelled senior Elliot Schochet to begin planning the walkout after having two friends survive the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Schochet said while organizers worked closely with the City and Park’s administration, the event planning was primarily done by students.
“Kids couldn’t have done it alone. It required adult intervention from the fire department, the police department, the administration at the school, from the City Council, from the mayor,” Schochet said. “It’s undoubtedly student-led, though we came up with all the ideas on our own. We totally planned this 100 percent on our own.”
Mayor Jake Spano, who walked alongside students at the March, said he appreciates student voices.
“I think nationally the grownups haven’t been able to get it done,” Spano said. “Much like the Climate Action Plan discussion we have had over the last two years, where youth were able to drive that agenda, I think that’s probably a good idea to see if the students can get some traction on this.”
Freshman Hope Kihanya said she feels the voice of the students is important regarding the topic of gun violence.
“It’s so close to us because it happened in a school where we’re supposed to be safe and where we learn and where we go every day. I feel like us being students, and having an opinion and voicing an opinion, being the new generation and talking about it gives us a voice,” Kihanya said.
Superintendent Astein Osei said he encourages students to speak up about iissues they care about.
“On any matter that students are interested or passionate about, I always encourage students to engage and have their voices heard on topics,” Osei said. “Sometimes that will be here in the school, there’s sometimes where it will be outside of the school.”
Spano said he congratulates students for taking action on gun violence issues.
“Kudos to the students. They have been really thoughtful and deliberate and have been in touch with us about what they want to do so that we can try and make sure that they get to and from as safely as possible,” Spano said.
Livingston also said she appreciated the peer support and dedication to changing gun laws as she told her story.
“It feels amazing. It makes it easier to speak knowing there are so many people here supporting me, supporting the change in gun laws. I hope that we continue to do this until something changes,” Livingston said.
The importance of student voice
Schochet said he feels proud to take part in the mobilization toward action achieved by students throughout the country, and looks forward to the “March for Our Lives,” planned on March 24.
“On March 24 there’s gonna be probably the biggest public demonstration in our country since 1963, when Martin Luther King gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, and those are kids our age, most of them younger than me in all honesty, doing that,” Schochet said. “It’s cool to think that I’m a part of it but to say I am a major player is a bit of a stretch.”
Freshman Najah Mclane-Taylor said students and youth should be able to have a say on important world issues.
“(Students) deserve a voice. Even though we are minors we deserve to say and put input on our situation,” Mclane-Taylor said. “We go to school not (the adults).”
Junior Madeline Gonzalez said she chose to participate in the walkout because she felt every student should feel safe at their school.
“Because I’m in high school and no one should have to worry about whether they are going to go home after school any day of the week, and they shouldn’t have to worry about it being one of their peers at that,” Gonzalez said.
Spano said he joined the students in marching because of his family connections to the school district.
“Because I have a wife who’s an elementary school teacher in this district, I have a son who goes to the high school and the number of children and teachers who have been injured by gun violence in this country is unacceptable and inexcusable. It has to end,” Spano said.
Livingston said it is important for those not old enough to vote to continue to speak their mind about issues they care about.
“Even though (underaged students) can’t vote, still be informed about it so that when we become of age to vote we can fix the problems the adults are currently not fixing for us,” Livingston said.