KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Classes at Kalamazoo Central High School started around 8:30 Wednesday morning. However at 10 a.m., around 1800 students walked out of a handful of doors in honor of the victims of the Parkland, Florida shootings.
“On this day we are saying enough is enough and never again,” said senior Jenna Bowker during a subsequent rally at the school. “We are sharing our voice with the world.”
Students filled the school’s football stadium for the rally. They held a 17-second moment of a silence for each of the victims who were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentines Day.
“One of the students could’ve found the cure to cancer,” Bowker said. “One of the staff members, the father of the next Usain Bolt. But they were murdered.”
Students participated in the walkout for many different reasons, she said, one for her being the Kalamazoo shootings. Two of her loved ones were victims of the tragedy that claimed six lives over two years ago.
“Gun violence has also happened in this community as well,” said senior Kareem Thorpe. “We’ve actually had to put our own students and bury them way too early.”
Thorpe teared up and took a deep breath during his speech. He commented on the number of students at the school who were killed due to gun violence. Many of the victims names — from Parkland to Kalamazoo — were written on balloons and released into the air.
“I hope that today gets the students to realize that we can mobilize,” said senior Jake Fales during an interview after the event. “We can have a voice.”
And their goal is gun reform, said many of the student organizers. Within the days of the Parkland shootings, they created a petition online Students Fighting Guns Because Adults Won't thinking initially they'd only get 1,000 people to sign it. By Wednesday morning, they received over 240,000 signatures. It's even caught the attention of former president Barack Obama. He sent them a Thank You note for their efforts in the aftermath of the shootings.
“People just, they see us as just kids,” said Talia Edmonds. “They don’t see us as the future. I’m 17 but in two months I will be 18 and I will be able to vote. And I plan on voting and getting people out of office that I don’t want there anymore.”
Edmonds was one of the few students who spoke at a rally in Lansing a few weeks ago about school safety. She’s also a part of the group organizing another rally to be held on April 20th, the day the Columbine shootings marks it's 19th anniversary.
“It doesn’t stop here,” said Edmonds. “We’re just going to keep going and we’re going to keep going until we see what we want to happen.”