Walking Out for Change


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It was 10 a.m. on a foggy Wednesday morning. At this time on a regular Wednesday, Urban students would be halfway done with their B period class, taking notes on Spanish verb conjugations, annotating the American Constitution, or perfecting their factor-label-method conversions. However, on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, the school was nearly vacant for almost twenty minutes.

Instead of attending B period, 80 percent of the Urban student population made their way down Masonic Street and under the blanket of trees that cover the Panhandle. They stood in the clearing right outside of the Salkind Center as six senior leaders read off the names of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting that happened exactly a month earlier on February 14, 2018.

This 17-minute walkout was part of a larger protest throughout schools across the nation where students organized to leave class at 10 am for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

10 days after the school walkout, on March 24, 2018, the March for Our Lives rally took place throughout the nation. San Francisco was one of the cities that hosted a march, allowing people to protest down Market Street as well as listen to various speakers, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, who talked about gun control reform. But what was most noticeable about the march was that it was student led.

The march itself started and was organized by victims of the Parkland School Shooting with a central message surrounding gun control.

Amy Argenal, Director of  Service Learning at Urban, expressed the importance of this movement being student-led. “This statement was coming from students wanting to be safe in their schools,” Argenal said.

Sarah Mitchell, a senior at Lowell High School in San Francisco, was a student leader of youth engagement for the San Francisco March for Our Lives. “[The march] was a chance for students and adults to show their dedication to making change in this issue, a chance for them to share their voices, and a chance for them to march altogether,” said Mitchell.

Regarding her own involvement as well as student involvement, she emphasized that “we are the face of the next generation and if we are not going to take action, who will?”

The sentiment brought up by Mitchell raises an important question. Urban’s walkout and the March for Our Lives were nearly two months ago and action is still needed, especially considering the recent shooting in Texas. In the process of writing this story, I asked to interview the six senior leaders who organized the 17-minute walkout for Urban students, but none of them could be reached. This spoke to the march’s current relevance–while it is definitely still a powerful movement in American culture, it is not as prominent as it was when it first started.

This was reflected by the Urban community as the conversation school safety and gun reform subsided due to lack student participation.

It is important to recognize that many Urban students did engage in protests that strengthened both the Urban and San Francisco communities, but at the same time, this is a movement that requires morethan a few days’ attention.

As Mitchell stated,this can’t be something that goes silent, everyone has to keep talking about it.”

While the hundreds of marches may have happened over two months ago, there are still plenty of ways to get involved with the movement. Methods include voting, for those who can, but for those who can’t, it is still possible to volunteer for campaigns you are inspired by. As Argenal described, this movement “needs a fresh face [because] it’s students that are being impacted.”