Several dozen students from all three Lee’s Summit high schools walked out at 10 a.m. on Friday morning, joining students from across the nation and world for the National School Walkout.
It was this latest in a wave of student-initiated and student-led activities to protest gun violence. Lee’s Summit students were joined by activists from more than 2,800 schools in advocating for “commonsense” reform of gun laws.
The National School Walkout coincided with the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, where 12 students and one teacher were killed. The event also came on the heels of last month’s March for Our Lives in response to an even deadlier shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The day-long rally, which was spearheaded by students at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut, sought to galvanize support for finding solutions to halt mass shootings, especially in schools, during a time when some U.S. citizens have become numb to such tragedies and students often feel powerless to stop them.
Locally, Aly Alvarado, a Lee’s Summit High School junior, organized the coordinated walkout and march on City Hall. She also organized the March for Our Lives Lee’s Summit protest on March 24.
“We’re here to put an end to gun violence and make our schools safer,” Alvarado said.
From Alvarado’s perspective, Friday’s walkout amplified the message many students have repeated since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in February.
“Today’s walk lets people know we’re not stopping,” Alvarado said. “It keeps the spark alive and the fire burning. These walks are forcing a change.”
Don’t expect Alvarado to give up the fight soon, either.
“Aly has been a social activist her entire life and she’s educated herself on the issues,” Alvarado’s mother, Heather Alvarado, said. “She feels people are more concerned about gun rights than about children’s lives. She’s headstrong and she’s not going to give up, or let people around her give up, until they see some change. I believe this is the generation that can make the change. They’re not going to be satisfied letting the same things happen.”
During Friday’s rally, Lee’s Summit students convened on the sidewalks in front of City Hall. An open mike was available during the day for students to share their experiences or thoughts on gun issues. There was a voter sign-up drive for those who are eligible and organizers also accepted donations for the non-profit, Everytown for Gun Safety.
“We’re here to show we care, and we’re here to represent ourselves because it doesn’t look like others are going to,” Lee’s Summit West senior Sophie Roach said. “A lot of Lee’s Summit students don’t think these problems apply here. They think, ‘It hasn’t happened in our area and we go to a nice district.’ They say, ‘It’s not going to happen here,’ but it can.”
Among the talking points for Alvarado, Roach and other protesters, they seek an increase to the age limit for firearms purchases, universal background checks, and a ban on bump stocks and extended magazines. They also hope to inspire fellow students to speak out and to boost voter turnout for the November midterm election.
Aside from protests and rallies, the group also plans to call state representatives, will coordinate an email campaigns, and seeks to foster conversation with fellow students and the wider community.
“We want to have talks with people — not argue but have conversations,” Roach said. “Lee’s Summit is a place that needs to be more educated. If we start with young people, it will make an impact on the future.”
Lee’s Summit sophomore Sam Alvarado agreed: “I don’t think I should have to worry about going to school and getting shot. I should have to worry about my grades. Just in March, four guys brought guns to our school and threatened a kid.”