Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, which claimed the lives of 17 students and educators, advocates around the country organized a national movement demanding change to better protect our schools and communities from gun violence. Leading that movement are student survivors of the shooting joined by thousands of young people across the country.
The NASSP Student Leadership Advisory Committee joined those efforts, organizing advocacy events and actions to honor the lives of the Stoneman Douglas victims and to call for policy change. Here are testimonials about that advocacy from one of the students on the committee and one of the committee’s adult advisers:
Junior, Carroll Senior High School
We are living in an era of change. We are living in a time where students are refusing to be silenced. We are living in a new mindset where students don’t take no for an answer.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sparked a national conversation on the topics of gun control and safety in our schools. Furthermore, it empowered thousands of students across the country to use their voices to make a change.
I personally have been awed by the movement led by survivors of the Parkland shooting. They have not only showed that the student voice is powerful but have perfectly exemplified that you are never too young to make a difference in this world. Part of the NASSP Student Leadership Advisory Committee’s Global Initiative focuses on civic engagement and encouraging students to get involved in their local and federal governments. While the students of Stoneman Douglas have demonstrated a strong presence on the national level, their movement has sparked student participation in local marches and protests and attendance of local school board and city council meetings across the country. Their movement has even reached all the way to my small North Texas town.
After the Parkland shooting, there was a shift in emotion among my entire student body. People were upset and scared, but more importantly, they had found a new sense of empowerment. With support from our administration and school board, we were able to organize a schoolwide walkout on March 8 for those who wanted to participate. On the day of the walkout, more than 650 students walked out for a 17-minute memorial to honor the lives of the victims of the Parkland shooting. In a fairly conservative town, it was incredibly moving to see students from all backgrounds coming together to say “enough is enough.” It wasn’t seen as a partisan issue but rather students demanding safety and security in our schools. After that event, a group of students from my school participated in the March for Our Lives in Fort Worth, Texas. This was organized completely by high school students, including one girl from my school, Alanna Miller, who delivered a powerful and influential speech to the crowd.
Student voices across the nation are joining together to communicate one unified message of change. Working with my peers to make our voices heard has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Our voice is not only the voice of the present, but of the future. As a population, we get to choose the type of world we want to live in and through the recent involvement of students in this national movement, it is clear what we want our future to look like.
English teacher and National Junior Honor Society adviser, The TASIS School in Dorado
Dorado, Puerto Rico
Students are agents of change. However, many teenagers think that this denomination does not apply to them. As teachers and advisers, a big part of our mission has always been instilling the desire and passion for advocacy. When young leaders become advocates and actively participate in conversations that pertain not only to their personal needs, but also collective ones, there is both a personal and collective gain.
The Stoneman Douglas tragedy stressed the need to redouble advocacy for gun violence prevention policy. It also highlighted how students’ voices are powerful and society needs to hear and respect them. As a result, student leaders all over the world have understood the responsibility of giving voice to issues that affect them and others on a daily basis. For many, gun violence seemed to be a faraway problem, but the latest tragedy and the stemming advocacy has put a spotlight on the importance of students and communities rising up to give a stronger voice to the cause.
With the Student Leadership Advisory Committee’s Global Citizenship Initiative in mind, our school’s NJHS, NHS, and NatStuCo members have designed bulletin-board decorations that will illustrate the need for enhanced regulation of weapons that are used in mass shootings. In preparation for an in-school march on April 20—the National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools—the students will also lead conversations with different groups to create awareness about the need for better legislation.
These students have understood that their civic engagement will lead to positive social change. They know that there is a need for their voice and what they have to say. They have heard the call for advocacy from their peers and have recognized their role as active and responsible citizens.