Local students join national walkout

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press Gladstone High School Senior Charlotte Strom holds a sign while participating with others in a student-organized silent walkout held at the school Wednesday in conjunction with the National Walkout commemorating the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

GLADSTONE — Students in Delta County were among youth from across the nation who participated in walkouts Wednesday in remembrance of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., one month ago.

Gladstone students stood in silence for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims who lost their lives at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

High school students from Gladstone formed a line of solidarity and locked elbows with each other. Some carried handmade signs relaying messages such as “We could be next,” “My outrage doesn’t fit on a sign,” “Fear has no place in our schools” and “Be the change.”

Other posters displayed hashtags of “NeverAgain” and “EnoughisEnough” and “WeStandAgainstViolence.” One student displayed a sign listing the names of the 17 people killed in Parkland.

Natalie Hansen, a junior who initiated the local walkout, held a sign which read: “We are Generation Change.”

“I think there’s change that needs to happen,” explained Hansen when asked why she helped organize the silent walkout, which she said actually gives individuals a voice.

“I wanted a conversation to start,” she added, noting each student likely has their own reason for participating in the walkout whether it’s supporting a cause or a way to get out of class.

Charlotte Strom, another organizer of the event, said the walkout was a way for students to participate in the National Walkout and show how they feel about the safety of their school and better gun control.

Strom held a sign saying: “How many people must die before you care?”

Senior James Jandro added the walkout is also about reform of the mental health system.

“That’s equally as important as the gun issues,” he said.

When the students initially heard about the National Walkout, they didn’t plan to participate, recalled Strom. They changed their minds later and got the word out through social media. When Strom and Hansen approached the school administration about plans for the walkout, the adults were very open to the idea, explained Strom.

Like Hansen, Strom said the goal of the walkout was to “start a conversation” about school shootings and “not sweep them under the rug.”

“The high school students who survived in Parkland are fighting back. It’s our duty to stand with them,” she stated.

Jandro said, because so many mass shootings are taking place in the nation, the public isn’t surprised anymore when they occur but the students from Parkland are taking a stand.

“Finally, young people are saying they’re getting enough,” he said.

Olivia Capodilupo, a senior, agreed, saying, “Teenagers are changing the world.”

Capodilupo reflected on the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida, commenting on the student videos she watched on the news which showed the chaos that morning.

“You could hear the gunshots,” she said, mentioning the students who would never return to class.

“It could have been me,” she added.

Strom said when she heard about the Parkland shooting on the news, it upset her because the endless cycle of mass shootings is so “disheartening.”

“I cried a lot in the library and the following day,” she said.

Principal Brady Downey said when he was approached about the walkout, the student leaders wanted to work with the school and not against the school.

He said he is proud of the students for Wednesday’s well-organized walkout that showed they can be active citizens supporting school safety while not focusing on guns.

“Their message was simple but impactful — it was about the safety of the school,” the principal noted. “I’m proud that they can navigate the adult world in a positive manner about students being safe in school.”

Following the Feb. 14 massacre at the Florida school, a staff meeting was held the next morning, Downey recalled, saying, “We wanted a consistent message in the classroom. The message was: ‘Let’s be safe in school.'”

After the Florida shooting, the high schoolers had a lot of questions regarding their own safety in school and voiced a lot of “what if” concerns, the principal said, noting a “refresher lockdown” was conducted to ensure students they’re safe in school.

“I’m proud of the process. I’m proud of the ability of the staff to work with students in becoming active citizens. They have a right to all want to be safe in school,” Downey added.

The walkout conducted Wednesday at Escanaba Senior High School and Escanaba Junior High School was coordinated in large part by sophomore Laura Sliva.

“I was the one who e-mailed (Principal) Mrs. Griebel and asked her if she would be okay with this and if the school system would be okay with this,” Sliva said, adding she was pleased with the large participation in Wednesday’s walkout.

“I am actually … very happy with the amount of students we had come out and stand up for this issue,” she said.

Like Gladstone High School’s walkout, Escanaba students also observed 17 minutes of silence. Afterwards, students spoke about the impact that mass shootings have had on America, as well as the importance of people standing up for their beliefs.

Seventh-grader Christian Frizzell said the walkout was an emotional event for many students.

“I felt like a lot of people were touched by (this),” he said.

Junior Abigail Master said the support offered at her school has helped her cope with recent mass shootings occurring throughout the nation.

“It’s an alarming thing because they keep getting closer, but the emotional support that’s here is amazing,” said Master.

According to Sliva, Wednesday’s walkout will not be the last effort against gun violence in America.

“This isn’t the end of our 17 minutes — it’s just the beginning of change,” she said.