Walking out to speak up

Students organize walkout, stand in unity with Parkland

Photo by: Hannah Abarca
Junior Ximena Ibarra and senior Journey Jaramillo, the walkout's organizers.

The clock struck 10:00 on March 14, students rose from their seats, walked down the halls and assembled in the courtyard.

The high school was one of around 3,000 schools, according to USA Today, across the nation to participate in this walkout in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting on Feb. 14.

Junior Ximena Ibarra and senior Journey Jaramillo, leaders of the Equality Club, sponsored by Spanish teacher Angie Pallarés and English teacher Melissa Fite Johnson, felt the need to bring this movement to the school. It started as an Equality Club event, but then drifted from just the club turning into a school-wide call to action.

“After the shooting in Florida there was some talk about a walkout as a nationwide situation. Ximena was interested in getting something started,” Pallarés said. “I helped very little, it was all Ximena and Journey. All I did was help them letting the staff know. They did the planning, footwork and talking to administration.”

According to Ibarra and Jaramillo, the toughest obstacle they felt they faced planning the walkout, was the reaction administration would have.

“After the Florida shooting I started seeing posts on Twitter about student activism,” Ibarra said. “We were hesitant to do it at first, but we ended up talking to administration. In the meeting with them we talked about our proposal and they welcomed it.”

With the administration’s approval the walkout was planned. Assistant principal Kelynn Heardt saw it as a different educational opportunity for students.

It is important to encourage learning outside the walls of PHS. We were able to work together developing a plan extending beyond students leaving class to join a walkout,” Heardt said. “I commend the students for encouraging participants of the walkout to make their actions and stance more meaningful. Even though students left class, they still took part in learning.”

I commend the students for encouraging participants of the walkout to make their actions and stance more meaningful. Even though students left class, they still took part in learning.”

— Kelynn Heardt

The nationwide event was set for a total of 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 lives lost. The school’s walkout lasted about 25 minutes due to students wanting their voice to be heard.

“At the walkout, we wanted to speak about gun violence and gun control, but we didn’t realize what we were doing gave voices to more than just us,” Jaramillo said. “People were going up to speak who I wouldn’t have thought would of. Their messages were just as powerful as ours.”

Multiple viewpoints were expressed at the walkout.

According to Ibarra, she wanted to make it known even as high schoolers, they can instigate change.

“We’ve seen the effect of threats against our school. Bags were checked and we had to sit in the cold, we know how little it takes to get a weapon,” Ibarra said. “It extends past Florida. Just because it hasn’t happened in Kansas or Pittsburg doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We need to take action against it now.”

As tears welled up, Jaramillo shared her personal connection to gun violence.

“I feel more passionate about gun violence,” Jaramillo said. “It became a bigger issue to me because my brother was killed by gun violence. I realized we need to stand up, let people know this is a problem and we need to do something about it.”

At the walkout Ibarra and Jaramillo advocated for gun-control, but other factors going into a school shooting were mentioned. The idea of being kind to one another was a message conveyed by senior Sean Scales.

After everyone was talking about gun control, no one realized bullying damages people. I don’t think anyone understands it besides the people who are bullied. They rarely get the chance to share their opinion,” Scales said. “This was my one chance to take all the years of depression and built-up rage, to tell everyone to leave each other alone.”

Students were not the only ones to walk out and speak up. Teachers also had a passion for the cause. Fite Johnson was one of these adults.

“It felt good to believe in something enough to take action. I felt an urge of pride in the students, but in myself too. I am proud I am not scared to share my opinions,” Fite Johnson said. “But, these students are half my age and they did this. I know they have support from community members and the school, which makes me feel really lucky.”