Today, I witnessed something I’ve never quite seen before at Ed W. Clark High School: complete silence. I watched anxiously as every student and every teacher stood in complete silence. I froze as a grave sense of sorrow resonated through our souls for what seemed to be forever, but in reality was only seventeen minutes.
On March 14, along with thousands of other high schools across the nation, hundreds of Chargers proudly walked across the football field to protest against our country’s policies towards gun control. In light of the Parkland shooting in Florida, the Route 91 festival shooting downtown, and the twenty other school shootings that have happened in 2018 alone, students across the country have been stuck in a constant cycle of fear, mired in bureaucratic purgatory.
The ever-present, yet unspeakable, question everyone is thinking persists: are we safe at school?
And the undeniable answer remains: no.
Every year that we have been students at Ed W. Clark High School, our lives have been in danger. In our own classrooms, whether it be hiding under the broken desks in physics when we hear piercing screams or being forcefully shoved into the corner of the world history room during a hard lockdown, there is no denial that our safety has and continues to be in jeopardy. I’ve had to listen to the trembling voice of my mother over the phone as she prays that her children will come back home to her. I’ve had to comfort my friends as they cry about the chance of them becoming the next victim. I’ve had to lie to my little brothers, telling them that everything is going to be okay – hoping, just hoping.
Today, the courageous students of our school took the initiative to create a safer environment, and had a supportive administration to back them up. A few students from Mr. Stockley’s We the People class organized the walkout to raise awareness of our society’s impending gun issue and to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting. Through their resilient passion and efforts to garner support, they gathered nearly five hundred students to participate in the walkout.
“We, as a city, understand what it feels like to be completely ravaged by gun violence,” says Michael Pasimio, a graduating senior and lead advocate at Clark for the ‘Empower’ movement. “And as teenagers, we agreed that something needed to be done.”
“This movement has a large emphasis on inclusivity,” says Gabby DeBelen, another leader of the ‘Empower’ movement. “We wanted other students who were angry about the failures of our representatives and the continued needless violence to be able to voice their concerns.”
When asked how they were able to organize such a movement, DeBelen responded “[Through] blood, sweat, tears, and lots of orange paper.”
Despite the grief that our city has faced, the Charger community continues to fight bravely. Moreover, the administration at Clark has been very supportive of the students and their goals.
“This was very powerful movement,” says principal of Clark High School, Ms. Pendleton. “I’m very proud of our students for taking the initiative towards creating not only a safer school but a safer country.”
How long it will take for our politicians to take the initiative to mitigate gun violence is unclear. However, one thing is very certain: the students of Clark High School will do whatever it takes to make sure that an incident like that in Parkland never happens again.