Student organizers from local high schools wrote to The Fine Print about why you should participate in their efforts to decrease gun violence in schools, including their march, #LetUsMarch, March 10 at the Oaks Mall at 11 a.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma Geon

P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School

Now more than ever, it is important for our generation to unite behind one cause: ending gun violence. Although guns have played a major role in every part of American history, gun violence in schools is increasing at an alarming rate since the Columbine shooting 18 years ago. On Feb. 14, 2018, a shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, occurred. It became a turning point for change in gun violence. Students can no longer stay silent while we are being killed. We must be the change we want to see in the world.

Students aren’t just fighting for the end of gun violence in schools. Gun violence is a universal problem that affects the entire United States. Yet for a problem affecting so many on a daily basis, no substantial legislation has been made to make it any better. Many legislators have tried, but it has been to no avail because the majority of our government officials choose money over the wellbeing of society.

This where the problem of the National Rifle Association (NRA) comes into play. The NRA is arguably the most influential organization in America. Not only do they spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying at the corporate level, but their reach extends to the grassroots level: 5 million Americans consider themselves an NRA member. This combination of influence is unprecedented. The NRA and their corporate associations donate millions of dollars to political campaigns. Government officials then vote in favor of the NRA because they are apprehensive to lose the monetary and grassroots support for their campaigns. This creates a perpetual problem that impedes any change surrounding gun violence. Ultimately, less guns in circulation means less money for the NRA, and they won’t tolerate that no matter how many innocent lives are taken.

We can no longer stand on the sidelines while innocent lives are being taken.

The government’s job is to protect its people, and it has failed us. Now, the responsibility has fallen in our lap to make change. If no legislation is going to be made, it’s our duty as U.S. citizens to stand up for justice. So I’m asking you take action. No matter your age, race or socioeconomic status, together we can make change. Lead a protest, email your state legislatures, inform others about the movement; if we can all contribute something small, the change we can make will be big. Inaction aids the side of wrongdoing.

Many adults invalidate the opinions of young people solely on the basis of our age. We must prove to them that even though we’re not yet able to vote, we still have valid opinions and our voices need to be heard. We refused to be silenced; that’s why — when the Alachua County School Board administration expressed disapproval toward school walkouts — many students in our country got together and planned a march against gun violence. We can no longer stand on the sidelines while innocent lives are being taken. Justice is blind to age; it’s time for a change.

Jovanna Liuzzo

East Side High School

Students are marching on March 10, 2018, in Gainesville, Florida, because we are tired of adults telling us that we are too young to make a change. We are standing up and taking initiative on gun reform in our schools to show other students that they have a voice, and to motivate them to use it. By educating students on the profiles of our elected officials, on the laws and policies in our states and on how they can register to vote, my goal is to equip every student with the tools they need to create change.

So many members of the Gainesville community have extended their support to these efforts. These efforts start with demonstrations like Let Us March and March For Our Lives, and continue with education to inform students through school. My hope is that the #NeverAgain movement provides young people the outlet they need to become politically active in our society, and to use their knowledge to further other movements regarding Pride, Black Lives Matter, Dreamers and everything else under the sun that students world-wide are passionately advocating for. We are the future, and I would like students to know that they have the power to #VoteThemOut if our elected officials do not seem fit to protect us from the issues we face every day.

We are the future, and I would like students to know that they have the power to #VoteThemOut if our elected officials do not seem fit to protect us from the issues we face every day.

I have been involved in organizing my own school walkout, the local March For Our Lives, youth forums through the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding, and the Let Us March campaign on March 10. Through all of my endeavors, I have found that the more I speak out for the change I would like to see in the world, the more people reach out to me to assist with the process of advocacy and student-lead change. For anyone reading this: YOUR voice MATTERS! Never let anyone tell you that your age determines your ability to enact difference. Stand up, reach out to your local community and watch change happen.

Gavin Pinto

Buchholz High School

When the older generation called on us to change and to understand that we will take their place, they wanted us to “grow up” and “take more responsibility.”

So we did. We became more politically active, we became more educated, we grew our voices and we became a stronger unit. What were we met with? Hate, and a lack of support, from the same generation that criticized us for inaction. Now, they say we are too young to be listened to — but wasn’t this what they asked for?

We are worth more than test scores and good grades. We are all worth the future we hold.

We’re standing for our lives and for the future of our country. We demand change, and it change starts at home. As we stand up and march, we show our unity and the necessity for action. We are worth more than test scores and good grades. We are all worth the future we hold.

Ethan MacMullen

Saint Francis High School

How many innocent lives need to be lost for leaders to finally realize there is a problem that needs to fixed? How many survivors need to tell their stories on national TV or debate with government officials for leaders to finally listen to us? How many phone calls will be made to parents saying that their child won’t be coming home tonight before they realize that this is an epidemic? Schools are suppose to be safe; they are suppose to be our home away from home, yet that safe space is being destroyed and violated.

How many phone calls will be made to parents saying that their child won’t be coming home tonight before they realize that this is an epidemic?

When will they understand that today’s kids are tomorrow’s leaders? We will all get our chance one day when we are old enough to vote or to run for office. If the person pulling the trigger is the real problem, why are we supplying them with guns? Why are we making it so easy for someone to simply walk into a school and take the lives of seventeen students? Seventeen sons and daughters. Seventeen of tomorrow’s leaders.

Katy Kerensky

Buchholz High School

A change is needed, and our voices will not be silenced anymore. School should be a place of safety not a place a fear. It’s sad to think that everytime the fire alarm goes off or we hear something in the hall that the terrible thought of being unsafe is put into our minds. This generation will be the change; we will not settle for any less. We are the change.

Destiny Braswell

P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School

Growing up, it never occurred to me to be afraid to go to school. School was a safe space for education and socialization. For years I congregated in my classroom each morning confident that I would make it home. As I got older, this confidence no longer came with me to school. Instead the fear that I too would be a victim of another massacre entered the blue doors of my first period. Every day when I sit at my desk, everyone around me shares an unspoken fear. We should not have to be this scared to go to school because we are afraid of getting shot.

Since I started middle school in 2012, more than 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings. Of the 239 school shootings, sixteen are classified as mass shootings (four or more people shot). Just recently, seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, just a four-hour drive from my own high school. This frequency of school shootings is unprecedented and frankly terrifying. Who is to say that my school won’t join these statistics?

When the fire alarm rings, or the long beep of the intercom fills the classroom, everyone expects the worst. The sigh of relief that follows when nothing is wrong has become a norm of the high school experience in America.

Ever since the Parkland shooting, the halls of my small high school in North Central Florida have been different. There are the noticeable changes: Police officers carry more extensive weaponry, and there are new rules about carrying backpacks to assemblies. But more importantly the demeanor of the student body has changed. Everyone is questioning the safety of our school. Our peace of mind is gone. When the fire alarm rings, or the long beep of the intercom fills the classroom, everyone expects the worst. The sigh of relief that follows when nothing is wrong has become a norm of the high school experience in America.

To make the situation worse, as minors we are left completely powerless. We can’t buy a gun or vote. So we left it to the adults to change our country to protect us. Based on their, it seems voting adults would rather to use weapons of mass destruction as toys than prevent tragedies. Time after time, legislators refuse to amend the gun laws that leave us at prey. But we have to live our lives. We have to go to school with this unprecedented fear.

However, there is something incredible about young people: We have passion. Throughout history, young Americans have changed our country. The students of Parkland have started a movement this generation has an obligation to follow. As days pass, people will choose to act, and others will forget about the victims of Stoneman Douglas. But the students who know this fear will never forget. Now. we have one job. Lorenzo Prado, a student from Stoneman Douglas, said it best: “Enact change because that is what we do to things that fail: We change them.” •

For more information on the march, see the Facebook event here


Note: This Saturday, March 10, students from P.K. Younge Developmental Research School are organizing a march to start at the Oaks Mall despite feeling like there is a lack of support from from the Alachua County public school administration.
Student organizers chose a saturday due to a rumors and fears of suspension. Emma Geon, a junior at P.K. Younge, wrote in an email to The Fine Print that while the administration has not specified any consequences for participating in a walkout during a school day, many students are scared and won’t participate due to fears of suspension.
If students want to leave campus during the school week to participate in a walkout — which these protests often entail — they must get permission from their parents through normal check-out procedures.
But getting permission, Geon noted, defeats the purpose of protest.

“We’re walking out despite the possible consequences,” she wrote.
Jackie Johnson, director of communications and community initiatives for Alachua County Public schools, said that students would not be subject to disciplinary action for participating in a walkout as long as they remain on campus, go to a safe area designated and supervised by school administration, and don’t cause disruptions on the way there or back.
Johnson also said that rumors of suspensions at Santa Fe High School on Feb. 21 weren’t true. Johnson said students will only be suspended if they’re engaging in disruptive behavior that would’ve gotten them into disciplinary trouble anyway, despite the event of a protest.