On March 14, students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district walked out of class to memorialize those who died during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A powerful symbol of unity, this event brought together thousands of students, staff members and administrators who had had #enough.
The walkout was organized by seven students from three out of four high schools in the district. While planning the walkout, they gained support from the administrations of the three schools as well as the Town of Chapel Hill and the Town of Carrboro.
Before the walkout, the group worked laboriously to meet with local leaders and raised $16,000 from community members and businesses. The funds went toward providing students with free orange shirts, which were labeled with the date, the names of the primary supporters and the slogan of the movement, #enough.
On the day of the walkout, the morning classes were replaced with a restorative circle, which focused on the shooting and general gun violence. Controversial questions were asked – many of which didn’t have clear answers: How can we improve the school to make people feel safe? As high schoolers, what can you do to make a difference?
After a long discussion, students marched out of the building at 9:55am and gathered in predetermined locations. Students stayed outside for 17 minutes, listening to the biographies of those who had been killed. Posters displayed the names and photos of the victims. The memorial service was entirely student-run. Those who had been chosen to speak accompanied the biographies they read with a few lines about why they chose to walk out. For some it was because they wanted tighter gun restrictions, while for others, they had personal connections to the victims.
I am a senior at East Chapel Hill High School and I could not be more proud to call myself a Wildcat. As students flooded the hallways at 9:55am, I realized that the sea of orange in front of me was an image I would never forget. In my four years at East, I had never seen the student body come together like they did that day. When we stood on the school’s front lawn, some students hugged each other, others cried and some just lowered their heads. Everyone took the matter seriously. The walkout made me realize that it is possible for people to overcome their issues and unite – students I had never even seen before embraced me. I am proud to live in Chapel Hill, a place where even kids are encouraged to stand up for their beliefs. While many see the walkout as a conclusion, I see it as the beginning of my generation’s movement. Students are powerful and we will invoke change.