Teens Fight Back

Since February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, there’s been a spotlight on the gutsy student activists who are fighting for safer schools and streets. Get inspired by the passion of the teens below, then use their strategies to get loud about your own cause.

A special thanks to our student guest editors!

We asked real teen activists—including those who have been personally affected by gun violence—to contribute to this article. Read on for their stories and activism advice.

Julia Salomone, 18, Parkland, Fla. 

Taylor Ferrante-Markham, 16, Parkland, Fla. 

Kenidra Woods, 17, St. Louis, Mo. 

Trevon Bosley, 19, Chicago, Ill. 

Zach Dougherty, 17, Toms River, N.J. 

4 STEPS TO STUDENT ACTIVISM

Teens at my school and around the country rely on these strategies when advocating for gun safety. Use them when fighting for any cause.

Gathering a group of people who share your viewpoint is the first step. After all, multiple voices are always louder than one! Reach out to friends, classmates, and family members who may be interested in working on the same cause.

Once your group is established, determine what everyone’s strengths are and figure out how each person can best contribute. Maybe one person would be good at public speaking while another would excel at organizing public events, for example. This will help you get things done faster.

It’s OK if you’re starting from scratch! Before February 14, my friends and I didn’t know much about gun laws. But after researching nonstop, we now know a lot. Talking with people who disagree with your point of view can be nerve-racking, but if you know your facts, you’ll be able to speak out intelligently and confidently.

The internet is just as misleading as it is helpful. That’s why it’s important to look for information from credible sources (such as studies or government websites) when doing your research.

Now’s the time to be seen and make a scene! Sit down with your group and organize a creative but peaceful public event or demonstration, such as a walkout, a mass protest, or a trip to meet with politicians.

If you receive negative comments online, don’t get discouraged or argue back (it’s useless!). Instead, reply with a link to a reputable website that backs up your point.

Now’s the time to be seen and make a scene! Sit down with your group and organize a creative but peaceful public event or demonstration, such as a walkout, a mass protest, or a trip to meet with politicians.

Big changes don’t happen overnight. Student activists from my school have marched in Washington, D.C., met with politicians, and spoken out in the media, but gun laws are still the same. We won’t let that stop us! Each small step gets us closer to our goal—that’s something every student activist should remember.

February 14

February 14 is a day for celebrating love. But at my high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the day ended in tragedy. People always want to know where you were when it happened. I was in my sociology class, waiting for the last bell to ring. Instead, the fire alarm went off. We evacuated to the back part of campus in case there really was a fire, and then waited for Principal Thompson to come on the loudspeaker to tell us it was a mistake and that we could go home. The announcement never came. What we heard instead were four faint pops. That’s when we were told to start running.

For a few nights after the shooting, I struggled with showering, of all things. It made me think about the normal activities that my friends would never get to do again. Days later, I went to my version of therapy—the tattoo shop. My wrist now carries a tattoo with the word love, scribbled in red, connected to the number 17, representing how many people passed away at my school.

Each and every one of us at Stoneman Douglas still struggle: with grief, with having no good answers as to why this happened, and with moving forward. But one thing I am sure of is that love overpowers hate and that our love for those we lost will outshine all other forces. That’s a promise.

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