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Seventeen is more than just a number

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By Cairo Suniga
Dakota Ridge High School

On Feb. 14, 17 students and staff members were shot and killed at their high school in Parkland, Fla. They were Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jamie Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup and Peter Wang. Seventeen others were wounded. In the wake of this tragedy, gun control debates surged as usual, but many students had a different plan: to make their voices heard.
One month later, on March 14, a nationwide walkout took place. “Seventeen. The number of minutes we are participating in this walkout,” said Mat McCormick, a senior, through a megaphone to his peers. “Seventeen. The number it took to bring the world to a realization. Seventeen. The number of lives that were lost on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen. The number of families that lost a loved one on that day. Through this tragic event, the nation rose up to fight for peace and unity.
“From this tragic event, this nation has risen up to fight for peace and unity. On this day of March 14, 2018, students around the nation are walking out of school for 17 minutes to honor those who lost their lives in Parkland.”
School students across the nation participated in walkouts, approved or disapproved by their administrators. Some marched in their halls, others went outside and held up signs, and Dakota Ridge High School students marched out to the soccer field at 10 a.m. From Powderhorn Elementary and Summit Ridge Middle School came peace posters — one donning handprints, the other signatures.
“The purpose of this demonstration is to respond to an act of hate with an act of nonviolence; to unite with one another to show that peace is possible; to demonstrate that through tragic events, the unity of schools can be promoted; to exemplify how a little school in Littleton, Colo., can have a big voice in the promotion of peace in our nation,” McCormick said.
However, not all students felt as if it was productive or that the walkout was used for the intended reasons. Some said that kids used the walkout to get out of class, especially ones they didn’t like. Others felt as if it shouldn’t have been held during school hours for the same reason.
No matter the intentions of the students who walked out, be them for what they believe or just to get out of class, a message was delivered. “In our school, I believe we can reject and prevent violence,” McCormick said in his closing speech. “In our school, I believe that we are able to and will promote respect despite our different cultures.”