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Opinion: Parkland students remain unshaken, continue to inspire through advocacy

Two months after the shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas students’ activism remains a glimmer of hope that something like ‘Parkland’ will never happen again.

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Opinion: Parkland students remain unshaken, continue to inspire through advocacy

Photo courtesy of Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Kristen Grau, Contributing Writer

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Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers.

This all too familiar phrase was exhausted by the President and other politicians soon after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting on Valentine’s Day—as was the same after every other recent mass shooting in recent US history.

But the Parkland shooting stands apart from others. This time, the empty phrase struck a chord when the students called BS on the NRA— and the world noticed.  

For the past two months, all eyes and ears have been on Douglas. There was non-stop coverage, extending from all of the gruesome details to all of the heroic sacrifices.

But despite the loopholes in gun legislation and the lack of mental health resources, I choose to stay hopeful for one reason only: the eloquence and courage of the survivors turned advocates.

Emma González, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, and Jaclyn Corin, just to name a few, are all students of Stoneman Douglas who grieved first, then galvanized the biggest revolution since the #MeToo movement: the #NeverAgain movement.

This eloquent band of young faces managed to transform a hockey arena in the middle of the Everglades into a public arena in which gun reform finally gathered momentum.

In the face of adversity, the high schoolers did not back down from major figures like Senator Marco Rubio and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch to implement firearm legislation and policy. Their voices unshaken as they echoed beyond the audience and across the country.

Exactly two months have passed since the massacre and not a day has passed where I haven’t seen a headline with one of the students’ names. Some headlines were inspiring for me, like when González was publicly recognized by Hillary Clinton on Twitter when she “pushed us to see possibility and a path forward on gun violence prevention.”

Some headlines, on the other hand, haven’t been as kind. Some disgruntled conservatives are trying to discredit the students by spitting out conspiracies that the students are “crisis actors,” calling Emma González a “skinhead lesbian” and David Hogg a “bald-faced liar.”

Last month, Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted that Hogg had been rejected by four universities and “whines about it,” while Ted Nugent gave his two cents by claiming the students had “no soul.”

Yet, through all of the cruel misnomers, the students remain unshaken. They continue to kick open doors and make themselves heard by speaking to influential figures such as Ellen Degeneres and Anderson Cooper.

These students don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.

Literally.

Student body president of Stoneman Douglas, junior Jaclyn Corin, organized a march in Tallahassee just days after the massacre.

Corin marshalled three buses filled with more than 100 students to reach the Florida Capitol and shout “This is what democracy looks like!” in an effort to crack down on high-power rifles and enforce stricter gun legislation.

Thousands of other students, captivated by their message, followed in the survivors’ footsteps by participating in the walkouts all across the country. On March 14, in both red and blue states, students walked out of school in support of the Douglas students’ movement.

Even FAU students stood in solidarity with the victims for 17 minutes outside their classrooms.

Students gathered on the Boca campus Free Speech Lawn Wednesday morning to honor the Parkland shooting victims one month later. Hope Dean | Features Editor

Their activism and impact cannot be contained by Florida’s borders. They worked tirelessly to organize the March For Our Lives movement, a massive national march on March 24th in Washington D.C.

Outside of the flooded streets of D.C., there were over 700 sibling marches held around the country.

After making their voices heard through every media outlet imaginable, the politicians are finally beginning to offer something other than their thoughts and prayers.

Gov. Rick Scott recently backed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In summary, the act “imposes a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases, raises the purchasing age for all firearms from 18 to 21, and bans bump-fire stocks.”

The act also “creates a system that allows law enforcement to confiscate the weapons of a person deemed a threat to themselves and others,” as well as “prohibits people deemed by a judge to be ‘mentally defective’ from purchasing a firearm.”

Legislation isn’t the only way to make a difference. Kyle Kashuv, a sixteen year-old Douglas student has taken another path to make a difference.

Kashuv is in the final stages of developing an app called ReachOut, “a way for students who are struggling emotionally to connect and communicate with others in school.”

Although Kashuv and his fellow classmates have fundamental differences, the point is that they’re all doing their due diligence to make sure another mass school shooting never happens again.

Anyone can donate to a GoFundMe, or buy a Parkland Strong t-shirt. Don’t get me wrong, those contributions matter.

But it doesn’t take just anyone to place themselves under the microscope of the nation and demand change.

Although they’ve garnered celebrity status, it is important to be mindful that these are teenagers changing the world. Teenagers that, a month ago, were worrying about their history essay for first period and their college acceptance decisions—not organizing national marches, participating in town halls, or making time for televised interviews.

Emma González opened up her editorial on Harper’s Bazaar with “My name is Emma González. I’m so indecisive that I can’t pick a favorite color…I draw, paint, crochet, sew, embroider—anything productive I can do with my hands while watching Netflix.”

They’re not impressive because they’ve appeared on Time Magazine or because they’ve marched the streets of D.C. They’re impressive because they went from kids watching Netflix to changing the way we react to tragedy and altering Florida laws that’ve been stagnant for years.

In that same editorial, González said, “I’m constantly torn between being thankful for the endless opportunities to share my voice, and wishing I were a tree so that I’d never have had to deal with this in the first place. I’d like to think that it would be nice to be a tree.”

Whether or not stricter gun control or more mental health resources are the answer—I’m unsure. If these students continue to be heard, they will find an answer.

Even if González was a tree, she would still make sound.

Kristen Grau is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]

About the Writer
Kristen Grau, Staff Writer

Kristen is a junior multimedia journalism major who previously worked as a contributing writer. She hopes to do long-form feature reporting for a magazine...

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