The walkout, march and registering to vote events empowered students to incite change regarding gun violence in schools.
By Kaitlyn Tom
As the clock turned 10, students flooded out into the loop for 17 minutes to stand in solidarity with the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14. Seventeen minutes later, a group of those students chose to walk on El Camino Real to protest against gun violence in schools.
March 14 marked one month after the historical shooting where 17 students and faculty members were gunned down in their classrooms. The national walkout was arranged by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER.
The non-partisan 17-minute event on the loop included a moment of silence as well as speeches from seniors Sierra Healy and Kathryn Wilson and junior Walter Li. Healy and Li’s speech centered around mental health advocacy. “One of the objectives of this walkout was creating a space for discussion of mental health and mental health stigma,” Li said. “We urge everyone here to have a constructive conversation and come together as a community to find solutions in a way that acknowledges all of the aspects of mental health.”
While most students returned to their classrooms after 10:17, some students marched down El Camino, chanting things like “This is what democracy looks like” and “Hey, hey NRA how many kids have you killed today?” These individuals joined with students from Gunn, MA, East Palo Alto Academy, and Woodside High School students at El Camino Park, across from the Stanford Mall.
Representatives from each school gave a short speech to the onlookers. Sophomores Lily Loftis and Sophie Golub represented Menlo. “Teenagers are seen as ignorant and unworldly because of our age. We may be ignorant in some ways, but our experiences are real. They should not be neglected. As students, the problem of gun violence, specifically school shootings, affects us directly,” Loftis said. “Speaking at the walkout was one of the most powerful things I have done. I used to quiet my voice when talking about controversial topics, but from now on I'm going to be unapologetically confident.”
The next day, Wilson set up a stand in the Student Center for students to register and pre-register to vote. “Student speakers at the walkout stressed that in order to make real change on the local and national stage, we need to get out and vote,” Wilson said. “By having Menlo students register to vote, we took the initiative into our own hands.”
For students who aren’t eligible to register or pre register to vote, Loftis urges them to become more informed. “Whether it be about gun violence or presidential candidates, I feel as though many kids adopt the same thinking as their parents or friends. It's not their fault, but especially at Menlo, kids are exposed to usually only one side of a topic,” Loftis said. “By being versed in multiple viewpoints, students can create their own opinion and act on that opinion [...] which is critical when trying to make a change in the world.”