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Students Organize Walkout Against Gun Violence

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In the wake of the most recent school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, high schools across America voiced their demands that these tragedies never happen again. On Thursday, March 8, Westwood students joined the cause, with 150-200 students walking out of classes at 11:00 a.m. in protest of gun violence.

Organized by four seniors, Ally Dotson, Sunny Bettapur, Adra Kreiling, and Presley Glotfelty, the walkout assembled on the student parking lot. Many students carried hand-made posters and prepared short speeches to share with their peers.

“Our entire reasoning behind [the walkout] was influenced by the shooting in Parkland and the endless lives lost we have had to witness and become numb to,” Glotfelty said. “We wanted to raise awareness in a way we knew how and involve people who couldn’t participate by voting.”

The scheduled walkout date and time were unique to Westwood.  

“We were here to support the national walkout, but I figured it would make more of an impact if Westwood individually made a decision,” Dotson said. “Anyone can follow a nationwide demonstration, but it takes a special school and a special group of people to go against the current.”

To spread the word about the event, the organizers worked independently of the school administration, a task that Glotfelty said required a lot of teamwork.

“Collaboratively, we all decided how to advertise it and all made signs which we copied hundreds of to pass out, discussed what we would do, where, what we wanted the true message to be, who would say what, and where we were going to get the equipment,” Glotfelty said. “I don’t think it would have been as successful if the four of us weren’t doing it together.”

The walkout began with the four organizers giving their own speeches, including Bettapur’s “20 Reasons why Teachers Shouldn’t be Armed.” Afterwards, the group carried out 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

“I joined the walkout because gun control is something I truly believe in and slowly and slowly it’s inching closer and closer to home,” Manasi Chande ‘18 said. “I don’t have a direct relationship to the victims but I know the victims. My cousin’s babysitter died in the Florida shooting.”

The floor was then opened to any other students who wanted to speak. From the reading of a poem to discussion about toxic masculinity, the speeches varied but all stood for the same cause.

“It’s really important to allow men to have emotions to me,” Noah Adcock ‘17 said, “because a lot of guys, they have to be strong and they have to be powerful and they can’t ever show weakness — that’s not okay. We have to all be humans, and if we’re not humans you get more violence like this.”

The walkout finished with some last words from Principal Mario Acosta who had approved the walkout to ensure it would carry out safely.

“It was a lot more helpful that Acosta was supportive for the walkout because it showed that he supports the students and wants the students to be safe,” Chande said.

Overall, the students and organizers felt that the event was a meaningful experience.

“I attended the walkout because I’m wanting more gun control in our schools and students should be safe no matter what,” Ethan Murphy ‘20 said. It was heartwarming for me because of how many people decided to attend and how many cared.”

Kreiling felt the walkout succeeded in its goal: raising awareness about gun violence and allowing students to express their views.

“We wanted to let the community of Westwood and Austin know that Westwood high schoolers are passionate about this and want to advocate for change just as much as anyone else,” Kreiling said. “Also, we wanted to show everyone that we all have voices and we’re not going to put up with gun violence in schools anymore.”

Taking next steps, Westwood students are planning to participate in the March for Our Lives on March 24, as well as the national student walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Most importantly, they are emphasizing the importance of speaking up.

“We are the future generation,” Kreiling said. “We will be adults. Why should we wait to have opinions and speak our minds? I think that the younger you are, the more you see things with emotional passion and when we have the capacity to have that passion, you can’t top that.”

 

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Kate Lee, Voices Editor

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