As a late-winter blizzard blew snow in their faces, 220 students stood in the middle of the football field, arms linked together, their feet planted in two inches of snow. They were quiet for 17 minutes as names of each victim of the Parkland school shooting was read and a silver star balloon was released.
Junior Derek Hamper was a part of the Student Leadership Team that helped organized the March 14 walk out. He said he was surprised by how many people had participated. He thought only the Student Leadership Team and maybe “10 other people” would join.
“But to see 200 plus people stand in that line,” Hamper said, “that hit me.”
Junior Navi Chima, another member of the Student Leadership Team, said the event made her feel like she was “part of a community that cares.”
“I think everybody…[came] together,” she said, “and we created something that was really, really great.”
Principal Jamie Hogue said the planning of the walkout began with students voicing their concerns after the Parkland shooting.
Nineteen year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people — both students and staff members — February 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The massacre sparked the Never Again movement, a nationwide student-led campaign against gun violence.
This movement inspired Streetsboro High School’s Student Leadership Team to plan their own walk out and tribute to the victims of the tragedy They were joined by students throughout the country who were staging their own forms of protest and support.
The walkout had to be student led, Hogue told the team, adding guidelines and ideas to keep them organized.
“When we first started talking about it,” he said, “I wasn’t 100 percent sure we were going to do it.”
Despite his hesitation, Hogue said he was impressed with the students’ communication skills and how hard they worked and delegated the various responsibilities.
“They’ve done a good job to cross gender lines, class lines [and] people of different interests, working together for a common cause,” he said.
Participants and the event organizers were praised for their conduct and organization afterward.
“It was very important to them that we did it well,” Hogue said, “and if we were going to do it, we didn’t allow
the kids to do it poorly…I think they were impressed with what they saw.”
He said the walkout was especially powerful due to the weather conditions.
“[The students] persevered, endured and stayed quiet,” he said. “I think doing that together as a group left us all with a very strong sense of community.”
Hogue said as a principal, people think he is supposed to tell others what to do, but that is not the case. His philosophy consists of convincing people to work together to “create the best learning environment.”
“When people are at ease,” Hogue said, “they feel empowered, and they feel like they’re truly a part of the community. I think that’s when most learning will take place.”
The Student Leadership Team consisted of three teams:
- General Organization
- Social Media
Each team had different responsibilities. General Organization planned speeches, what would happen during the walkout, created posters, and ran an informational meeting beforehand in the auditorium. Social Media promoted the walkout, mainly on Twitter, and the Speech team worked on what to say during the meeting in the auditorium.
Senior Ravleen Ingle, another member of the leadership team, said everyone contributed what they could, and even the quieter students had their own ideas.
“Student leadership is very open-minded and respectful,” she said. “The big thing with student leadership is that no one tries to outshine anybody.”
Because the walkout went so well, the team is now planning one for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine massacre.
“It’s going to be completely different,” junior Hannah Smolik said. “It’s going to be more of a protest walkout than a remembrance and moment of silence.”
Chima said the point of the next walkout is to voice opinions and spread their message concerning gun control.
Junior Jessica Zelasko said additional social problems, like medicare and armed guards, may be addressed as well.
“[The walkout] shows us our power and how we can move forward as a student body,” she said. “We’re strong and we have views, too.”
Senior Jared Perdue was among those students who participated in the March walkout.
He said the event “touched me in a way that made me feel like I should cherish life and other people more because I never know what could happen.”
“Even though Streetsboro is a small school,” he said, “we have to start somewhere to make a big impact.”
Ingle said a part of the impact students make are nurtured by the school staff.
“The administration created this forum for us to create change and take action,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to have an administration that supports our ideas and allows us to have voices.”
Photos by Haley Shaw, Fabian Lemus, Taylor Reynolds, and Anna Guerrero