ELIZABETH, NJ - Approximately 6,000 Elizabeth H.S. students took part in the national walk-out on Wednesday afternoon, raising their voices and concerns about gun violence to federal, state, county and local officials at town halls held at each of Elizabeth’s schools.

The district arranged and coordinated the town halls to give students direct contact with the officials who make gun laws and enforce safety. The meetings, coordinated with the student governments of the seven high schools, on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“The action taken today by the student government at Elizabeth High School Frank J. Cicarell Academy, in collaboration with the faculty and administration, is the first step in ending a vicious cycle of mass shootings that have plagued our schools for far too long now,” said EHS Sophomore Class President Daniel Cano.

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“We have worked over the past couple of weeks to make today the day our voices were finally heard by the officials responsible for our safety. This is just the beginning,” said Cano

Elizabeth Public Schools Superintendent Olga Hugelmeyer and Elizabeth Board of Education President Maria Z. Carvalho expressed their gratitude to the officials that spoke to the district’s high school students and felt the assemblies were very successful in allowing students to voice their perspectives on the issues of gun violence and school safety

“We understand and share the frustration and fear our students have in witnessing these terrible, life-altering events,” said Superintendent of Schools Olga Hugelmeyer. “Students have a unique and important voice in this dialogue and it is imperative that we listen.”

“No one has a greater interest in school safety than the students,” said Elizabeth Board of Education President Maria Carvalho. “Our students are passionate, concerned and thoughtful. Their voices count.”

Students from throughout the district felt the day’s events marked a step in the right direction toward students’ voices being heard on the issues of school safety and gun violence and making schools and students safer.

“The event was very educational and an important experience. I was impressed by the speakers in today’s assembly,” said Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy Sophomore Class President Ariana Montoya. “It’s good to know the government is siding with (you) and is willing to listen to you no matter how small you feel you are. I also learned that we can be a generation of change and we can change the story by standing up and making them hear our voice.”

“Today was a success! Everyone united and discussed what was important to them. Students, now, feel that their voices are being heard,” said Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Academy Student Council Senior President Isis Luna Umanzor.

Student activist Kason Little from the John E. Dwyer Technology Academy stated, “to all my peers, you are natural born leaders and I take my hat off to all of you. Y’all did that! I have never seen such eager, devoted students who’ve said “enough is enough, it’s our time to shine. I strongly encourage everyone to stay the course, continue to speak the truth, and never get discouraged or afraid of being you. You all hold the biggest stake in our country, and during America’s most difficult challenges people will look up to you to solve them. Look in the mirror, that’s your competition!” 

The officials who took part in the programs were:

  • U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez
  • State Senators Joseph Cryan and Nicholas Scutari; and former State Senator Raymond Lesniak
  • Union County Freeholders Angel Estrada, Angela Garretson, Sergio Granados, and Christopher Hudak
  • Union County Undersheriff Amilcar Colon
  • Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage
  • Elizabeth City Council members Carlos Torres, Kevin Kiniery, Patricia Perkins-Auguste, Manny Grova, Jr. and Carlos Cedeño 
  • Elizabeth Board of Education President Maria Carvalho and Board Member Stanley Neron

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez praised Elizabeth students in a video posted on his Facebook page.

“I stand in solidarity with you so that we can turn ‘once again’ into ‘never again,’” said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. “You’ve turned your mourning into a movement.”

“The event was very educational and an important experience. I was impressed by the speakers in today’s assembly,” said Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy Sophomore Class President Ariana Montoya. “It’s good to know the government is siding with (you) and is willing to listen to you no matter how small you feel you are. I also learned that we can be a generation of change and we can change the story by standing up and making them hear our voice.”

“Today was a success! Everyone united and discussed what was important to them. Students, now, feel that their voices are being heard,” said Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Academy Student Council Senior President Isis Luna Umanzor.

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