High schools students from across Newark converged at Science Park High School on Saturday for a forum against gun violence featuring Jaclyn Corin and Alfonso Calderon, both survivors of the Parkland Massacre in Florida.
The forum, which was attended by hundreds of Newark youth, was designed to allow New Jersey students to dialogue and develop coalitions in New Jersey and across the state to stop the spread of gun violence and to demand stricter gun laws.
This student-led conversation on gun violence is aimed at strengthening the student voice and identifying solutions nationally and locally. The visit from Parkland students comes just two weeks after a massive rally in Newark as part of the March For Our Lives demonstrations across the country.
"The voices of Newark youth will have a transformative impact on the future of gun violence in the world,” said Kim Gaddy, Newark Board member and co-organizer of the event at Science Park High School. “They have the opportunity to correct the legislative injustices and prevent the future killing of individuals to gun violence,” Gaddy said.
Interim Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Robert Gregory said the forum was designed to put Newark students in positions where they could lead efforts against gun violence.
Jacklyn Corin, one of the Parkland survivors, said she came from Parkland to make sure everyone knows the importance of their voice and their vote. She was a leader in the trip of 100 classmates to the Florida State Capital soon after the Parkland shooting and a leader in the #NeverAgain movement, speaking at the Washington, D.C. rally.
"What we are all about is going to other young people especially those that deal with gun violence on a daily basis and talking to them, comparing our stories and educating them on the importance of bringing politics into their everyday life," Corin told WPIX News.
Alfonso Calderon, another of the Parkland survivors, mesmerized the audience as he described what happened during the shooting.
"Screaming, crying a lot of commotion," he said. "Staffers were telling kids to run back to class. Shots were being fired."
Calderon, a founder of the March for Our Lives committee who has worked since the shooting to prevent gun violence, said he hoped to reach the students on the issues that truly matter such as voting and gun reform.
"There's a false notion that because you are a kid or because you are younger, you can't do something, you can't have a voice. you can't have an impact," he told FiOS 1 News.
“Gun violence is becoming a national epidemic," said Jubilee Rexach, a student at Science Park. "It is time for the students to be heard as we are the ones being targeted. Newark students stand together to demand change.”
Princess Sabaroche, a senior at Uncommon Schools North Star Academy Charter School in Newark and an organizer of the event, said her generation is good at speaking their mind.
“If the government isn’t listening to us now they should be," Sabaroche said. "We see everything, we hear everything. We’re listening and we’re always ready.”