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What Students Learned from the 17-Minute Walkout

walkout1(This article was written by SHS Student Emmeline Berridge)
Scarsdale High School, March 14th, 9:00 am
: Hundreds of students stood up in the middle a lesson, walked out of their classrooms, and flooded toward the turf field like fish swimming against the current. Despite the sheer number of students in participation, the masses remained silent. As a student and participant, I felt an awe-inspiring feeling of pride for the support and strength of my classmates. Here we all were, enduring the frigid 20-degree morning as a class united in reverence and protest.

In the wake of the devastating mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month, Scarsdale students joined thousands of high school students across the country to participate in the National Walkout for Gun Control. A student government organized event, Scarsdale walkout was a both a memorial to commemorate the lives lost in the shooting and a political protest to address the pressing issue of gun reform in public schools. At 9:55 am students were invited to walk out of their classes and join a 17-minute memorial service, one minute for each life lost in the mass shooting. The 17 minutes were followed by a series of political speeches by Scarsdale students.

The memorial was somber, chilling, inspiring, and grief-stricken. After an introduction to the protest, 17 Scarsdale students read the biographies of the 17 people lost in the massacre. Each Scarsdale student presenter corresponded with the age and gender of the victim, creating a chilling appreciation for the life.

Unfortunately, our community had a distinct connection to the tragedy in Scott Beigel. Beigel was a geography teacher at Douglas who was shot protecting the lives of his students. He was also a division leader at Camp Starlight, a popular summer camp in Maine. Several Scarsdale students, who were close with Beigel from their summers at Starlight, spoke about Scott in admiration and heartache. Junior Chessy Greenwald shared her personal connection with Scott, providing a tangible sense of grief during the ceremony: “Scott Beigel touched me and each of my friends in his own way. His ability to tell a story or make the weirdest things seem cool are what made this so difficult. I, along with all of my friends, am stronger and a better person because of Scott.”walkout2

Scarsdale For Good Measure Acapella group closed the ceremony with a soulful rendition of “Lift Every Voice.” Though the crowd of students remained silent for the entirety of the memorial, a sentiment of camaraderie was ever present.

After the memorial, students were given the option to go back to their classes before a political debate ensued. Many students left, but the majority stayed to listen to the speeches. Several students said they “didn’t agree that the message of the memorial and the message of gun control were in the same conversation. ”

Personally, I felt that it was completely appropriate and respectful to divide the walkout into two parts. The division allowed students to honor the victims and show their support for the community, while also staying true to their own beliefs and morals. The political portions featured speeches from Senior Anna Rubin, who discussed her frustration with the current political institutions, citing alternative methods of gun control in other countries, and Sophomore Daniella Paz, who provided insight into the stigmatization of mental illness in situations such as Nicolas Cruz’s.

If this walkout has taught the Scarsdale community one thing, it should be that our students are strong. Our students are bright. Our students are willing to take action, in unity with our entire generation, to help incite change. Parkland, an affluent community filled with brilliant teenagers, is completely comparable to Scarsdale.

These events brought forth the fear that in reality, no one is immune to these tragedies. On February 15th, the day after the shooting, a fire alarm blared throughout the halls of Scarsdale High School. The ringing of the bell on this snowy morning sent a chill down my spine; it was eerily similar to the events in Florida the day before. I should not have been afraid for my life in a place that I am required to go each day. I should not have been afraid for my life in a place that teaches teenagers the benefits of peace and reconciliation. Like every other teenager post-Parkland, I have a sense of fear that only substantial change can erase.

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