Students, Mount Pleasant community participate in national school walkout
Nearly 200 people gathered together at 10 a.m. March 14 in Fabiano Botanical Gardens to take part in the Enough National School Walkout movement.
The walkout began with 17 minutes of silence to honor the 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that occurred on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida. The Enough National School Walkout is a nationwide movement that aims to bring attention to gun control and protest gun violence.
The walkout was organized by the College Democrats at Central Michigan University. Alma senior and College Democrats Vice President Jackie Smith spoke about the unfortunate circumstances that keep impacting schools.
"The Women's March is organizing the event nationwide to promote people to come out and speak their mind on gun violence across the country," Smith said. "Your right and access to education should not be put at risk because some members of our society would rather protect guns than protect our students."
Smith encouraged students to register to vote and play a part in pushing for change in legislature, whether it be at the local, state or national level. She explained the only way change will occur is if people go out, push for it and vote for new representatives.
Smith also spoke about the shooting that happened on CMU's campus March 2 in Campbell Hall. While she was not on campus that day, she gave people in the crowd the opportunity to share their personal experiences from March 2.
"I think it's important for our generation to really get out there and try to make a difference," said Lake Orion sophomore Courtney Greschke. "We've had some of the other marches in the last year and we've seen some good change come from that, so I think this could also be one of those big steps forward. I think a lot of the administration and faculty will see how many students across the country aren't in class and it will kind of push for safer campuses."
Smith said that she thinks it is important to do a demonstration like this to show support for high schoolers, who are future college students, and also because Central has so recently experienced a personal breach of security.
"Students don't always think about issues like gun control because we feel like it's not relevant even though it does happen at schools so often," Smith said. "Standing in solidarity with high school students matters because they are going to be college students in the future. We are all in education and if we unify the ideas between K through 12 and college education, I think that can be a really important measure in getting more protections passed."
Grand Rapids junior David Fitzpatrick is pursing his degree at CMU in education. He attended the walkout due to the frequency of school shootings that have occurred in the U.S.
"The fact that this has happened so many times and that it's something that we might have to face — even though we didn't sign up to face it — I want that to change before I leave college," he said.
Fitzpatrick thinks using his voice is the biggest instrument in making change happen.
"Older people are always assuming they have authority and that they can tell us when we can and cannot speak," he said. "The fact that we're standing up and speaking out against that is probably the biggest shock. We have a voice, and that more than anything else I think is what's going to bring attention to this issue."