Content Coursework

Longform Piece – Advanced Journalism Course

Historians credit much of our social change to adult activists, but if you read the fine print of our history books it shows that the youth are actually the pioneers of the justice behind out tragedy.

These tragedies begin on Aug. 1, 1966. At the University of Texas, a student with a sniper rifle rained hellfire from the clock tower on those who walked below. Before police could neutralize their attacker, he had taken with him 14 shots that had hit the mark. These 14, are people who never got a chance to see another class, see their siblings, or see their daughter walk down the aisle at her wedding.

Since that day, there have been 20 school shootings. Some of the most known being Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut, Columbine High School in Colorado, and the shooting at Virginia Tech.

Most recently, the nation has seen 17 more lives come to an abrupt end at Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. While, as a nation, we have seen mass tragedy like this before, this one has shown a louder response.

“You can keep [school shootings] on people’s radar and you can keep people aware of it. When this first happened in Parkland, I did have a conversation with students who said ‘this one feels different,’” Springfield College Dean of Students, Sue Nowlan said. “It feels different because I don’t think it’s gonna die down like it has in the past. I don’t think it’s going to fade off into the distance as quickly. I think the way that the community of Parkland is organizing and protesting, I think that is has the potential to have a much longer lasting impact.”

This longer lasting impact lives on in the form of something so innate to millennial generation. It lives in the form of a hashtag, a social media concept that unites users with one thread. Recently, we saw success with another movement that went viral in Oct. 2017 called #MeToo. This hashtag helped demonstrate the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.

“#MeToo was a big thing for Vagina Monologues. When we did our white boards a lot of the girls had it on there. It’s a visual for people to say, “whoa this is how many people are experiencing this,” Springfield College sophomore and Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) Executive Board member, Tyler Polansky said. “Going back towards #NeverAgain, I feel as though with social media there are all these hashtags and tagging that go along with these movements. So, having a hashtag for anti-gun violence I think will go to show that we are being progressive about this and trying to tackle it head on rather than just avoiding the topic.”

Using their knowledge of the 21st century, Parkland high schoolers Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, and Sofie Whitney formed the group Never Again MSD. Not long after the group was formed, Kasky took to Facebook and posted a status that read: “Stay Alert. #NeverAgain”. This group, over the course of three days, gained 35,000 followers on Facebook and gained other Stoneman Douglas High School students to the group.

This movement quickly spread to a national scale. At this level, students around the country have planned a school walkout on March 14. In honor of the 17 lives that were lost in the Parkland, Fla. tragedy, the event will last only 17 minutes beginning at 10 a.m.

“You never think it’s gonna happen to you,” Polansky added. “You never think it’s going to be that person that you sat next to the other day, or that person you paid for their coffee in front of or behind you. You never think it’s gonna be someone that you know.”

While many people have fought recent protests for stricter fire arm possession laws, these many movements by today’s youth have influenced others to hand in their own weapons and have seen companies place policy changes on their sale of fire arms. Notably, President Donald Trump has recently moved to ban bump stocks, which allow fire arms to fire more rapidly, and Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have both tightened their policies on gun sales.

Together, the Stoneman Douglas High Schoolers have made more noise, pushing for progress than we have seen.

“These Parkland high schoolers they’re incredible, they’re heroes. They really are,” Springfield College SAVE Executive Board member, Emma Wertz said. “They’ve been through such a traumatic experience and have people try to undermine that and say that they’re actors and stuff. It’s really sad to see people, that they value their weapons, or laws and and money from the NRA rather than these children’s lives, it’s astonishing. But the fact that they’re not giving up or backing down it’s huge.”

The driven students of Stoneman Douglas High School have dedicated their mission to defying the results that the nation has seen in the past. These students will not let the United States forget. They will not go away until a change has been made and are continuing to prove that youth activism is powerful enough to create lasting change.

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