Show of Solidarity for Change: SHA Takes Part in the National Student Walkout

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On Feb. 14, 2018, 17 lives were claimed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Just one month later, students all over the nation made a powerful show of solidarity by participating in walkouts and using their voices to advocate for change. At 10:00 a.m. thousands of highschoolers walked out of their schools for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the Parkland victims. During this time some had moments of silence, others had speeches or rallies, but regardless of how they took part in this movement, the message was the same: never again! As many students across the nation made their opinions clear that security measures and gun reform laws are needed to prevent future tragedies, so too did SHA by conducting its own walkout.


SHA students participating in walkout.


Sr. Kathleen Mary Coonan, ASCJ, principal of Sacred Heart, permitted the walkout but left it up to the students to organize the event. This event was largely led by seniors; in particular, Claire Donelan, Meredith McConnell, and Avishan Motazer were the driving forces behind the preparation for this demonstration. Meredith, who had first approached Sr. Kathleen about the walkout, explained, “I really want[ed] to do the walkout at SHA because I felt that in our school, we can easily feel like we are in a bubble. So many people have said to me, ‘but that wouldn’t happen here.’ People don’t realize the epidemic that gun violence is until they are personally affected. I also really wanted for these girls to feel like they can make a difference and be a part of a national dialogue.”


Home-made SHA protest sign that reads: How many more?

Home-made SHA protest sign that reads: Protect kids not guns.












On the Monday and Tuesday leading up to March 14th, the three senior leaders held meetings after school to finalize plans and get other interested members of the student body involved. There also was an Instagram account created, @shaschoolwalkout, intended to keep potential participants informed, as well as to provide the SHA community and beyond with follow-up posts in regards to the walkout and the rising movement for stricter gun restrictions.


Front of a T-shirt specially designed for the SHA walkout by Amelia Rozear and Ashlee Feliconio.


That Wednesday, many girls were seen outwardly showing their support for the movement by wearing red or black t-shirts that had “Never Again” and “2.14.18” printed on it. These shirts, designed and hand-made by Amelia Rozear (Class of ’18) and Ashlee Feliconio (Class of ’18), had been sold to the student body earlier in the week for $5 each. At 9:59 a.m. you could see classrooms begin to empty as upwards of 200 SHA students joined together for the walkout. Many carried signs they made themselves that depicted the names of those being remembered that day with their age, the names of mass shooting victims embraced in angel wings, the number of victim deaths, and other related slogans.


SHA students participating in walkout.

SHA students participating in walkout.











All participants congregated on the front steps of Sacred Heart, and Meredith McConnell opened with a compelling speech about the issue of gun control in the U.S and ways to address it. In addition to sharing powerful stories and statistics, showing gun violence to be a domestic violence, feminist, mental health, and human rights issue, Meredith’s speech also moved the crowd when she took a moment to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting and when she recalled the personal impact the Sandy Hook shooting had on her. Finally, she ended with a rallying message to her peers: “No man, woman, or child should be afraid to go to school and not come back alive. I beg you all, do not let this anger or sadness fade away only for another tragedy to occur. Do not let yourself become a part of one of these statistics. Use this energy to speak out. Young people are the deciding vote; you can make a difference. Remember to register to vote and call your local congressmen. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” (Full speech: Meredith McConnell’s Speech at the SHA Walkout)


After finishing her speech, Meredith invited others to come up and speak. Claire, one of the seniors who helped organize the event, led the gathering in a prayer, honoring all victims of mass shootings and hope for change in the future. Following this more solemn part of the walkout, students then began to call out chants together. Some of the chants shouted out were, “No more silence, end gun violence,” “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like,” and “More love, less hate, we just want to graduate.” Lastly, in the final moments before the students returned to class, the names of the 17 Parkland victims were read aloud.


SHA students participating in walkout.

SHA students participating in walkout.











Even after the walkout had officially ended, SHA’s participation in the movement was far from over. The posters that had been proudly held high during the demonstration can now be seen on walls around the school. The @shaschoolwalkout Instagram account also plans to continue posting updates on the gun reform cause. In fact, the day after the national walkout, it posted a picture of some SHA participants in the event with the caption: “Every voice demands to be heard, so thank you for starting the dialogue.” Additionally, many SHA students continued to talk about what they had experienced during the walkout long after it ended. Amelia, who had helped design the SHA walkout t-shirts, said of the event, “It was such a powerful experience for me to be a part of, and to contribute to, this walkout for an issue so prevalent in our country today.” Other students showed their interest in continuing to advocate for stricter gun laws and other legislation that would help to prevent mass shootings in the future. If you are one of those students, I encourage you to continue participating in events concerning gun violence, to join in productive discussions (both online and in person) on gun control issues, and to get in contact with members of the government (local, state, and federal) to show your support for gun control reforms.



This national walkout has shown the whole country that there is nothing more powerful than people coming together to fight for a common cause. More than that, seeing so many young people voicing their opinions on such a controversial issue has most likely inspired others to get involved and hopefully will bring change in the future. Regardless of what side of the gun debate you stand on, one of the most important messages this show of solidarity has shown people, especially young people, is that our voices matter and that in order to make real and lasting changes, we must take united action.

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