“Rebellions are built on hope” | A perspective on student activism

A month ago, I was heartbroken. Today, I am hopeful.


“Rebellions are built on hope.” ~Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Last Jedi 

Though I was not even alive for the Columbine shooting in 1999, I have grown up in a culture of school shootings. For much of my life, I have accepted that I will have to practice lockdown drills on a regular basis, that I will have to map out escape routes in my head when I enter a classroom, that I will have to know how to block a door should a shooter enter the building. When I first heard about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, I knew what the reaction would be: thoughts, prayers, perhaps some debate about gun control and mental health, and eventually a return to daily life in America.

How wrong I was. As I watched breaking news alerts pop up on my phone on February 14, I had no idea that in the coming days I would organize a walkout, speak at a rally against gun violence, be interviewed by the press, and join a new group of Jeffco students that feel as passionately about ending gun violence as I do. Since February 14, my frustration and anger at our politicians’ inaction after mass shootings has been replaced by inspiration and hope.

After hearing about yet another school shooting–the now-infamous shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 students and set off nationwide student activism–I began to plan a walkout of my own. Social media drew my attention to the idea of a walkout, only 17 minutes long to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting on the one-month anniversary of the shooting. Almost instantly, I created an event on Facebook and the results were heartening; many students were also interested in a walkout. Over the ensuing two weeks, I met with and heard from students, community members, and school administrators–many of whom were supportive but had concerns over safety. We decided to walk out and form a heart–a visual representation of solidarity, unity, and a reminder to our politicians that students are unafraid to raise our voices.   

In the process of organizing the walkout, I also became part of Jeffco Students United for Action, a new group created by senior Emmy Adams at Golden High School. The group was created to plan the Jeffco Never Again Rally, a rally to show that while we were the district in which school shootings began, we will be the district in which they end. I met passionate students from across Jeffco, from Golden to Ralston Valley to Bear Creek to Lakewood and am excited to continue to work with the group.

I cannot adequately describe my feelings at the rally. As I listened to fellow students from schools across Jeffco deliver speeches–some reaching shouting crescendos as they expressed their anger, some openly weeping–something inside me shifted. That night, it was a string of small moments that accumulated in a feeling that can only be described as hope: sitting next to the father of a Columbine victim as he wore the shoes his son wore on the day he died, holding hands with the other student organizers of the rally, my friends and family members embracing me after I delivered my speech.

The past few weeks have been exhausting, to say the least. As a member of JSUA, I have attended meetings and panels, interacting with countless community members and state legislators. But this exhaustion has been fueled by my desire for change, by my passion for changing the world for every student and every community member that has ever felt threatened by gun violence.

As I stood in silence in the middle of our A-West heart at the walkout, I felt my own heart fill with hope. A month after the Parkland shooting, I think that there might finally be change in our country. Moving forward, I will keep Poe Dameron’s quote in the back of my mind, and remember that rebellions are indeed built on hope.