At 10 a.m. on March 14, students across Naperville joined students across the country for national school walkout day.
“It’s going to be an experience I know I’ll never forget and that I hope nobody else ever forgets because forgetting is what got us here in the first place,” said Aneesah Shealey, an organizer of Neuqua Valley’s walkout.
The protest against gun violence comes exactly one month after 17 were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The event set off a spark of activism that has spread nationwide.
“For me it was just that fire burning inside of me saying ‘I don’t want to see any of my friends killed. I don’t want to see any of my siblings killed. I don’t want to see anybody from my community killed in a place were we are suppose to learn and grow for the future,’” explained Shealey.
Sentiments like those prompted students to unite and act – organizing the local walkouts entirely on their own.
“We did consider inviting parents, inviting elected officials, inviting the press directly,” said Andrew Prozorovsky, another organizer of Neuqua Valley’s walkout. “But we did figure that we wanted to, in order to keep our message pure, we felt that students should be the ones speaking not outside speakers, the students should be the ones involved in this movement at its core.”
“We are coming together as a Metea community and as District 204 and truly as a nation because it is a national walkout,” explained Alexa Jordan, who was on the leadership team of Metea Valley’s walkout. And we’re rallying first by the flagpoles because we are saying we are a nation. We are strong and we can push through this together and we can find solutions.”
Students seized a line from “Hamilton” saying ‘this is not a moment, it’s a movement,’ a slogan that quickly grew through social media, along with the #enough and #neveragain.
“I think the definite reason why this has become such a big thing is because the people that were affected by the shooting were teenagers our age, who use social media on a daily basis just like us. And they got their message out and we’re kind of following in their footsteps,” said Zac Strater, a member of the media team for Waubonsie Valley’s walkout.
Student speakers, moments of silence, and even tables to write to local representatives were part of the walkouts.
“What I hope to gain out of this is to show our congress men and women that our voices should be heard and need to be heard [because] they haven’t been heard before,” explained Michael Smith, an organizer of Waubonsie Valley’s walkout.
And joining these voices were many parents who came to the sidelines to stand in solidarity with their students.
“They’re going to make so many changes. This generation is just beginning and it’s so exciting to be a part of it and so exciting to know that we all had a hand in putting somebody in this generation and watching them do what they’re doing,” said Waubonsie parent Tricia Rodriguez at the walkout.
The districts superintendents released statements last week allowing students to walkout. And additional police presence was on hand at all high schools as a precaution.
“These walks both here and nationwide aren’t meant to be ‘stick it to the man or the teacher’ they’re more meant to be ‘we need to show people that this is important and we need to tell people that this is important and this is the best way to do how.’ Because it’s a huge display that you can’t ignore,” explained Maya Benziger, an organizer of Waubonsie Valley’s walkout.
“It was amazing to see our school walkout in solidarity and stand in unity, addressing this issue. And there are no words that I can express at how grateful I am to be a part of this community that’s working toward advocating toward reform,” said an organizer of Naperville North’s walkout Avery Maloto, moments after the walkout ended.
Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.
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