March 14, 2018, Chappaqua, NY — It’s been a month since the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And as is the paradigm, as the days since the tragedy have passed, so has the coverage of it. However, after the slaughter of 17 innocent lives in a school building, our country has refused to remain silent. We have refused to allow this horrific event to become just another headline, we have refused to allow the victims to become just other statistics. Today specifically, the students of our nation refused to stay silent. Today we walked out.
I could describe how it felt to have my phone alarm ring at 10 a.m. and watch nearly every student rise out of their seats to walk out of school, communicating with their actions that something must change. I could describe the goosebumps I received as a result of seeing the 17 empty desks displayed outside, a tribute to the 17 innocent lives taken. I could describe the sea of orange outside of our school’s doors, or the gut-wrenching speech given by two students affected by the tragedy. I could describe it all, but it wouldn’t do it justice, because today was bigger than just an isolated protest for gun-safety.
Today we united as a student body (and with student bodies across the country) to take a definitive stand against gun violence and prove that this issue will not just disappear without a fight. We walked out of school with the names of the victims on our tongues, and the prospect of change in our hearts. Too many communities are forever haunted by these harrowing events, too many hallways are stained with blood, too many innocent humans have become victims.
The overwhelming participation this event received at Horace Greeley, as well as at schools across the country, shows how vehemently our country’s youth will fight to change the policies surrounding guns. Even further, today’s walkout showed how passionately my generation will fight to change any policy that ails our country, rather than aids it. Although the point of today’s walkout was to communicate our feelings on gun-safety, a larger idea was communicated: our generation will not be silenced. Today the world witnessed our battle cry.
I take pride in participating in today’s walkout; it will be an experience I will forever value. This experience gave me an opportunity to stand up for what I believe in and stand in solidarity with the victims of the Parkland shooting. But I will also never forget this experience for another reason. By participating in this student-organized, student-led walkout, young people across the country showed that the ability to raise our voices and fight for what we believe is an aspect of our nation that we hold sacred. We expressed our desire to be informed citizens who participate in peaceful protests, a hallmark of our democracy, in order to affect change. We formed a united front in order to confront an issue plaguing our society, and we continued our vow to take action.
Through our actions today, we demonstrated that we are committed to bettering our country, and truthfully, I have never been more proud to be an American teenager. My generation, the so-called “leaders of tomorrow,” is taking action today. And that makes me feel immensely hopeful.
Moreover, today’s walkout made me feel grateful to live in a community like Chappaqua. Instead of worrying about the consequences of participating in the walkout (expulsion, suspension, etc), I walked out of the school building knowing that I had a community that supported my decision to take action against injustice. Youth participation in our democracy flourished in Chappaqua today, because an environment of safety was fostered, and the expression of opinions was welcomed. Instead of condemning the walkout, instead of merely tolerating the walkout, my community supported this event, which is truly empowering.
I am so incredibly lucky to live in a town where my ability to speak out is encouraged; in fact, if every community encouraged youth participation in democracy like Chappaqua did today, the world would change for the better. We are the fuel for that change.
For 17 minutes today, our generation provided a glimpse into a time in the future when we will be tasked with the responsibility of leading. And we take that responsibility seriously. If today is any indication, when we inherit this country, it will be in many capable hands.
As long as young people keep deciding that our voices will be heard, as long as my generation yearns to affect change, as long as this moment transforms into a movement, I am certain that we have better days ahead of us. So let’s find our passions and fight for them; let’s raise our voices and refuse to be ignored; let’s educate ourselves and learn from others; let’s care about the future that will one day become our reality.
There’s no reason to become the leaders of tomorrow when we can claim those positions today.
Story by Ari Silver Photos by Hannah Rosenberg
Chappaqua, NY, March 14, 2018 — My decision to walk out today was a simple one. I chose to speak and stand up for those who unfortunately no longer have the ability to. Though the walkout drew criticism from a handful of students who claimed that the event was a call to push a “liberal agenda,” this had no effect on my decision, or the choice to participate for the majority of Greeley students.
This issue of gun violence is much larger than politics, and it is not an issue that belongs to Democrats or Republicans. We all need to find a solution to the epidemic of gun massacres that are taking place far too frequently in our nation’s schools.
The walkout began promptly at 10 a.m., as directed by the student organizers. Students calmly filled the visitors parking lot and very quickly began to quiet down.
Before the walkout, 17 desks had been placed around the parking lot in honor of those who were killed in the Parkland shooting.
The event began with a few brief speeches from a class president and two siblings who had recently moved from Parkland.
‘The students spoke of positivity, the call to action and the remembrance of the lives that were lost on February 14th. The students then walked a planned route, with some students shouting, “What do we want, Action, When do we want it, Now!” Several students held hand-made signs that had different political and non-political messages.
Administrators and teachers surrounded the school to witness the march and to ensure students were safe. Since the event had drawn some security concerns, the district had assigned increased security personnel and members of the New Castle Police Department to the site. The walkout concluded inside the cafeteria, where students wrote messages on pieces of paper, each assigned containing the name of a victim of the Parkland shooting.
Overall, this was a very meaningful experience for Horace Greeley students. For myself and many others, emotions ran high. For me, the walkout comes two weeks after I had the opportunity to meet with Representative Nita Lowey and law enforcement officials in White Plains to discuss school safety. I feel that this walkout shows that my generation is beginning to become more involved, and my peers are starting to understand the powers that they possess to create change.
Ari Silver is a junior at Horace Greeley High School and a new writing intern for the Inside Press. Ari’s article about a Temple Beth El/Antioch Baptist Church civil rights trip for students appears in the current edition.
Hannah Rosenberg, also a junior at Greeley, is a Photo Intern for The Inside Press. Hannah photographed the ‘A New Beginning’ cover story of the current edition.
Following a tragic Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 14 students and three teachers, Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, parents, school administrators, and allies to take part in a 17-minute #NationalSchoolWalkout at 10 a.m. across every time zone on March 14.
Parkland students made their collective voice unequivocally clear–breathing unprecedented youthful energy into a movement. They demand government get a grip on a gun and mass shooting epidemic. Their essential message: Enough is enough and that Congress must take action on gun control and pass legislation that will keep them safe from gun violence at school, home and places of worship.
Horace Greeley High School’s Hannah Fenlon was moved by the heartfelt response of Parkland high school students to organize a national student walkout.
“When my principal Mr. Rhodes asked whether I, student body president, was interested to help organize and plan Greeley’s student walkout, I surveyed the other members of student government,” Fenlon said via email. “We collectively agreed this event would be a great chance for our school community to come together and stand up for every student’s right to feel safe in school.”
The group is working with student leaders and administrators to safely plan the event, and hope it will be a meaningful tribute in remembrance of the student and staff lives lost that day. “While we decided that our walkout shouldn’t adopt an overtly political agenda, I also hope students will leave feeling empowered and ready to use their voices to spark positive, tangible change,” Fenlon said.
Chappaqua Central School District Superintendent Dr. Christine Ackerman said the district is aware of the National Movement for students to ‘walk-out’ of school on March 14 for 17 minutes in response to the horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“While the rationale for individual involvement may be different, from my vantage point the ultimate goal for an event of this nature is to bring heightened awareness to the public regarding student concerns over safety,” Ackerman said.
“This is consistent with Project SAVE law enacted by the New York State Legislature in 2000,” she said. “Our secondary principals are working with our students who wish to part-take in this movement.”
Ackerman said the district sent a notice to families — a different notice based upon the students’ ages — Friday prior to the walkout about how it will handle the day in each building.
“In Chappaqua, we are incredibly fortunate to work with a supportive and involved Town of New Castle leadership team… to collaborate on ways to ensure we are cultivating emotionally and physically safe spaces for our children,” she said. “I look forward to working together with all of our community partners as we continuously look to improve our school district environment.”
Byram Hills CSD Superintendent Jen Lamia said students have been forthcoming, expressing their thoughts, and what we care about is they do this in a safe environment. “Our job as educators has been to educate and keep students safe. As a community, having students work with the administration and share what they’re thinking speaks to us maintaining our schools as safe places.”
Lamia felt, “Students are seeking a way to respond, to be heard, and to unify. Educators must do what we can to hear what students have to say and to keep them safe.”
Although Fox Lane High school in Bedford CSD will be participating, neither district Superintendent Dr. Christopher M. Manno, nor Pleasantville UFSD Superintendent Dr. Mary Fox-Alter — whose district high school is not listed as a participating school —responded to a request for comment.
Robert E. Bell Middle School eighth-grade student Isabelle Good-Ricardo encouraged her peers to participate in the March 14 walkout. Below, Good-Ricardo’s statement shares an encouraging message about evoking positive change in a peaceful way and emphasizes today’s students are making history and are tomorrow’s voters. For Isabelle’s comments, please go to: https://www.theinsidepress.com/bell-school-student-explains-why-the-youngest-voices-protesting-gun-violence-must-also-be-heard/
For general info about the walk and participating schools, please visit https://www.actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/enough-national-school-walkout
By Isabelle Good-Ricardo
“When I first heard about the walkout movement,* I wondered why our school wasn’t showing more effort to do something meaningful like the other schools who were going to walkout,” eighth-grade student Isabelle Good-Ricardo said.
“Middle school is such a weird time in your life. You’re growing up, making friends, and you’re trying to figure out who you are. You have to do all this while juggling school work. That doesn’t leave much time for politics,” Good-Ricardo explained.
“What some people don’t understand is that we are the next generation of voters,” she emphasized. “In a few years, we will be the people who decide the fate of our country. It is so important that we establish a foundation of beliefs when we are young.”
Good-Ricardo said the walkout isn’t to force anyone to participate. “It is to make sure we know that we are people whose voices can and will be heard. We are living history in the making and we’re missing it! It’s time that we stop watching and start doing.”
“I urged the school and my peers to join and follow the national movement by planning a walkout for (Robert E.) Bell (Middle School in Chappaqua) on March 14th at 10 a.m. and started by reaching out to some of the eighth graders,” she said. (When) it became clear students from other grades decided to join, “I emailed the teachers and principal to let them know what will happen so that they are aware of what will take place on that day.”
Good-Ricardo then met with school Principal Dr. Martin Fitzgerald.
“He is concerned about safety and liability and urged me to think about possibly pursuing a different, ‘safer,” more passive action,” she said. “I think it’s so important to be honest with my peers, so after the meeting I consulted them and told them everything he said. They responded by saying that they still want to do it.
After getting feedback from other students, the group decided to continue with its plans.
“We feel that it is our responsibility to take part in a nonviolent civic action such as this one,” Good-Ricardo maintained. “I have gotten such a positive response from this, and I hope that this sparks a fire in people to let them know that they are important and their actions do make a difference.”
She hopes the momentum from this movement “will be enough to leave a memorable mark, and that the country will begin to understand that we will no longer watch history go by. We will make our own.”
* Editor’s Note: This story of Isabelle’s statements to the Inside Press was edited by Janie Rosman. For additional background, see Rosman’s related story: https://www.theinsidepress.com/here-at-home-area-students-plan-to-support-their-peers-in-parkland/
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