DENVILLE, NJ- On Wednesday March 14, nearly one million teenagers across the country stood up and walked out of school as part of a nationwide protest calling upon Congress to take action against gun violence. I am proud to have been one of them.
Undeterred by the small size of the school, my friends and classmates at Morris County School of Technology in Denville, NJ participated in the national event at 10 a.m. As I looked out into the crowd at signs reading “#Enough” and “Arm Teachers With Knowledge,” I felt an indescribable sense of unity among the school.
Two student organizers, Gabriela Garcia and Sana Shaikh offered words of inspiration and a call to action. They reminded students of the power in their voices and their abilities to persuade Congress to make necessary changes.
“We walk out because it could have been us,” said co-organizer Gabriela Garcia, “We walk out because we want to show the rest of the country that we, as young people, have power. We have the power to walk out of the school, soon to vote, and after that, have the power to sit at the Congressional table and make change happen.”
The event lasted seventeen minutes, one for each victim of last month’s tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Sophomore Jenna Manderioli and I read each of the victims’ names while students stood in silent solidarity.
“I’ve never felt a force more powerful than our moment of silence…that silence was just a reminder that we truly can create action and make a change,” said senior Brianna Vigorito.
For some MCST students, including me, the memorial of the Parkland students was a bit more personal. Some of us had friends and mutual friends in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the fatal shooting, and while some made it out safely, others did not. I was grateful to use the megaphone at the walkout to let my classmates know that we do not have to wait for a school shooting to affect our friends or family before we take action.
Katherine Hu, a sophomore at MCST, shared a similar sentiment: “It hit close to home because I have friends who went there. But when we all came together, it showed that you don’t have to be one of the victims to be affected.”
My classmates and I do not want this walkout to be the end of the conversation about gun violence. This is an ongoing issue that we need to keep talking about to ensure our legislators do not forget how we feel.
"This is the type of history I cannot wait to tell my kids," said Sarah Vojta, a senior, "that I was there, that we made that change."
I often think about my place in the grassroots #NeverAgain movement led by the survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida. I find comfort in feeling as if I am one tiny part of a movement so much larger than myself—a movement that connects young teens from every corner of the country.
I can see the passion in so many young people just by their participation in the walkout. Whether they showed up to advocate for stricter gun laws or to stand in solidarity with the victims of Parkland’s shooting, their presence made a statement about their willingness to stand up for change. I am feeling an overwhelming amount of pride and a renewed belief in the future of this country.
Soon I will be 18 and able to vote in an election for the first time. I know that events like this walkout and the feeling of the need for change will be on my mind as I head to the polls. My voice will be heard loud and clear through the power of my vote.