EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Jolie Harmon is a third-generation female political activist. The East Brunswick High School sophomore has taken up the torch to provide leadership among students looking to make sense of the tragic deaths of kids just like them in Parkland, Florida last week. She hopes that greater understanding will drive open dialogue leading to change. She has already made a difference as part of a group of students whose plans for a student walkout to commemorate those lost last week morphed into a district-wide program today.
"I am lucky to have powerful female role-models in my family, " said Harmon, who credits her mother and grandmother with inspiring her commitment.
Harmon and some other EBHS students were trying to plan a "walkout" during class this Wednesday to show support for those who lost their lives. The "secret" plan took on a life of its own on social media. That's when the administration became concerned.
Harmon and and other leaders on the Principal's Council met with EBHS Principal Dr. Michael Vinella who said, "We will help you." Vinella suggested that a more organized program involving the whole student body might be a better way to open dialogue and work toward solutions that are right for East Brunswick.
According to Harmon, "School should be a place for students to have a voice" about issues that concern them. "It is important to educate us," Harmon told Vinella and the EBHS team. "We need to learn how to have discussions in a rational, non-partisan way."
Harmon believes that the country is "torn" because people are not longer speaking with and listening to each other. "Issues like gun control are tough. That's why there's no single right answer. Let's learn from each other," she said.
"We need to de-escalate," Harmon continued. "Parkland seems a lot like East Brunswick, a similar community. I can relate to those students and their teachers. We need to find alternative methods of being pro-active so that hostility does not grow."
Harmon, a member of the Girls Lacrosse team, is also involved with the Sources of Strength, anti-suicide and self-esteem development program and has held discussions and offered support to students in Memorial and Lawrence Brook Schools. "Being involved with the program has reminded me of the power that each of us has," she said. "High school is hard. Being there for other students is important. I want to spread positivity."
Harmon and the Principal's Council will meet again with the administrators and counselors tomorrow to discuss plans for an event on March 14, the one-month period since the Parkland shootings, and the date of a National School Walkout by American students.
Jolie Harmon is ready to listen, learn, and lead, as are many students in East Brunswick and across the nation.