An Informed Student is a Powerful Student

IMG_2576.jpeg

By Danielle Mayo

Schools all over the country took time away from academics to prepare and execute a 17 Minute National Walkout to honor the lives of the 17 students and staff members whose lives were taken during the February 14 mass shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Ft. Lauderdale.

Conversations on the country’s gun laws lead the dialogue each time there is a mass shooting; and yet, no real change has been implemented to combat the violence guns help create.  Instead, the 45th President of the United States and the Secretary of Education think it’s helpful to have teachers carry guns instead. 

You know, fight fire with fire.

In response, schools are peacefully protesting gun violence in opposition of the National Rifle Association’s refusal to make changes and Trump’s distasteful idea of arming teachers.  

Black people in this country already have to deal with police officers who continue to have prejudices and deadly responses to young black men and women.  What do you think will happen across the country with teachers who are licensed to carry?

The very same thing.

Stress and racial incongruencies will simply lead to murder.  There is no rational explanation for this. It’s just a tit-for-tat that is unsafe and simply insane.  But if there’s ever any beauty in a tragedy like this, it is that somehow and some way, individuals are able to find unity in adversity.

Abramson Sci Academy demonstrated this beautifully as students gathered in the school’s back field, braving cold temperatures to stand together.  Some created signs. Some recited poems. Some likely didn’t even understand why they were engaging in the walkout, but they still participated, nonetheless.

Even more beautiful was seeing students of the school’s Essential Skills program (a specialized educational program the school provides to address the intense physical, educational and emotional needs of students living with pervasive mental and physical disabilities) be a part of this protest.  The Essential Skills teachers could have easily chosen to keep the students inside and voted against pushing non-electrical wheelchairs through dirt and grass to get their students there, but they didn’t. Instead, they made sure all students had the same exposure, ensuring no one was left behind.

IMG_2589-225x300.jpeg

I could see passion and fire in the eyes of the students who were older and were comfortable and confident in using their voices to speak out.  I could see hurt in the eyes of those who have been exposed to gun violence within their communities. Apathy from those who remain playful and unable to connect the seriousness of it all, ut even from the different backgrounds and experiences, they stood together.  Peers challenging one another to pay attention. Peers teaching one another powerful sentences to chant. Peers helping one another create signs illustrating opposition to gun violence. Adults staring in amazing because in this moment, this is truly what education is about.

It’s more than arithmetic.  It’s more than a GPA. It’s about instilling appropriate decision-making, problem-solving skills and discipline to make a change in their communities and in-turn, the world.  It’s about ensuring they are informed about policies, the law, their rights, and ways in which they can make changes they believe will be beneficial to them. It’s about allowing them to be creative and make mistakes, all the while supporting them and letting them lead the way.

We can’t live in fear that they will fail.  We can’t live in fear that others and systems will fail them.  And this student-led protest was a shining example of the success and empowerment that can occur when we don’t only focus on academic content, but also teach our youth that they too, do have the power.

My plea to everyone who took part in yesterday’s walkout is to keep marching. Keep shouting. Keep voicing your opinion. It’s working. They are hearing us. This is not the time to get tired or give up. We have to keep up the good fight and one day we will prevail!