Following the national March 14 walkouts, students of all ages across the country continue to march forward in a push for gun legislation. With another round of walkouts planned for April 20, affected pupils continue their activism and reflect on how the walkout has affected them and will continue to affect their lives.
March for our Lives, a national student-planned demonstration for gun legislation in Washington, D.C. occurs this weekend (March 24) with sibling marches splintering off in other parts of the country to complement this movement.
One of the youngest participants in local-level gun activism is Lincoln Middle Schooler Antonella Borjas. At only 13 years of age, Borjas is the official organizer behind Santa Monica’s sibling march of March for our Lives.
Gretchen Gies-McLaughlin, Borjas’ English teacher, says Borjas “shyly asked if she could count a march as her community service,” a requirement for graduation. Borjas (and her committee consisting of her mother and four other students) have gathered of 1,200 sign-ups to the event and will deliver a speech at Palisades Park alongside a gun violence survivor. The event will begin at Kyes, 1518 Montana Ave at 10:30 a.m.
At the high school level, Lea Yamashiro and Stella Sekoff (a junior and senior respectively), are both students who played key roles in their school’s walkouts and continue their activism along their peers.
Yamashiro, a junior at Samohi, organized publicity for Samohi’s walkout and is working in conjunction with other schools to make “as much noise as possible” in combined activism efforts, including something “more dramatic” than their initial rally/walkouts.
“The March 14th walkout was really just a jumping-off point and we are fired up,” Yamashiro said in an email to the Daily Press. “I can tell that our group – the organizers and the students with whom I am working – is not going to stop in this movement until we see change.”
Only 16 years of age, Yamashiro is adjusting to growing up in a culture where school shootings become more commonplace throughout the country. In a previous interview, Yamashiro mentioned being spurred into action after seeing the events in Parkland. However, her exposure to school shootings and their aftermath happened earlier in her youth.
“I remember the day of the Sandy Hook shooting vividly,” Yamashiro states. “My dad, who came to pick me up after school that day, was quite insistent that I come to the car as quickly as possible. When I hopped into the passenger’s seat, he looked so shaken but relieved; I’d never seen him so thankful to know that I was okay.”
At Crossroads High School, student body co-president and organizer of their Walkout Day events Stella Sekoff continues her community activism, noting she persists due to gun control becoming “literally a life and death issue” for her and her classmates.
Sekoff plans to follow through on initiatives started during the initial walkout in several ways — speaking to groups planning assemblies on gun control on gun violence, aiding in voter registration (and pre-registration) drives, and “calling and writing to congresspeople and companies that align themselves with the NRA.” Additionally, Sekoff is organizing transportation for members of the Crossroads community who want to take part in the March for Our Lives demonstration in downtown LA.
“A lot of times, when tragedies happen, as teenagers, we feel helpless and that our voices won’t really make a difference,” Sekoff said in an e-mail to the Daily Press. “But, on Wednesday (National Walkout Day), looking around and seeing my peers eagerly registering to vote, as well as calling and writing their representatives and corporate leaders, I began to see that our generation could actually play a huge part in making real and lasting changes in our country.”
Sekoff says this movement energized her and fellow students to hold government and leaders accountable to ensure school shootings never happen to them or anyone else ever again. “Thoughts and prayers won’t change the culture; new laws and reforms will. And that’s what we will be working for.”