J-DHS Students March for Their Lives

Tim Skeval, Nick Mannion, Murphy Foss

Assistant Producer, Assistant Editor, Sports Editor

On Saturday, March 24, student-led protests supporting stricter gun laws took place in cities all over the United States. These protests were part of the “March for Our Lives” movement, which was started by students as a result of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and teachers on Feb. 14.

Jamesville-DeWitt High School students ranging from freshman to seniors all united for one common goal on March 24. Some students marched locally in Syracuse, while others traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the national march. “We want to see changes made,” said freshman Max Mimaroglu, who marched in Syracuse. Students at the march also wanted to show adults that they should be taken seriously. “We are sick of being considered ‘just kids’ by everyone; we have a voice,” said junior Chloe Loewenguth, who also marched in Syracuse. “We have been labeled as oblivious by sources like Fox News, but that just isn’t true,” added senior Nico Modesti, who marched in D.C.

Many teachers nationwide took to the streets to support their students. Librarian Mary Panek was one of the many voices in the crowds in downtown Syracuse on March 24. “I wanted to march with my students because it would be a life changing experience,” said Ms. Panek. A turnout of over 1,000 people filled the streets alongside Ms. Panek. “I am so proud of those young people and the actions that they have taken on an issue that matters so much to them,” said social studies teacher Donna Oppedisano, who spoke at the Syracuse march. While at the march, Mrs. Oppedisano addressed the crowd about the NRA-supported policy of arming teachers with guns. Some of what Mrs. Oppedisano said was, “don’t ask me to carry arms. Instead, arm me with: more mental health professionals to meet the increasing student needs, smaller class sizes so that we can really get to know our kids, support for families who find themselves in crisis.”

Mrs. Oppedisano also addressed government officials directly; “now, to our representatives. Listen to these kids! They are our future. They are your future, and guess what: they’re gonna vote!” She also encouraged students everywhere; “to all of you young people: Remember today is not the end it is the beginning! Keep going! Continue to advocate and agitate, and register and vote.”

March organizers provided free “March for Our Lives” signs to attendees who did not bring their own signs. However, some marchers decided to get creative with their signs. Senior Lauren Saletsky was there at the march with a custom sign. “My sign said ‘Hey Hey Ho Ho, The NRA can suck my toes’,” said Saletsky. In pictures featured on syracuse.com and on her Instagram account, Saletsky was pictured marching with fellow J-DHS senior Jenna Vespi, whose sign read “Books Not Bullets.” Along with them was another J-DHS senior, Danielle Jaffe, whose sign preached the same words MSDHS survivor Emma Gonzalez preached at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, “Students Call B.S.” The “B.S.” chant started by Gonzalez protested against the politicians who accept campaign donations from the NRA and who have said that now is the time for grieving and not legislative action.

The Never Again movement was also started by some of the students who survived the MSDHS shooting. The movement, sparked by the tragedy experienced by these students, pushes for stricter gun laws and increased regulation. This movement has focused on media appearances, and organized events promoting increased gun control, one of these events being the March for Our Lives. Seeing the terror inflicted upon students their age as well as the resilience, determination, and courage of those students has inspired students at J-DHS. “If I were put in their situation I don’t know if I could do what they have done. They have inspired so many, including me,” said senior Taku Laclair. Laclair said that he, along with his sister Sayaka, were so inspired that they chose to go to the march in Washington, D.C.

Principle Paul Gasparini heard about J-DHS students’ efforts at the march, “they really represented themselves well, they take democracy seriously, they take standing up for your beliefs seriously, and you just have to complement their effort, their drive, and their passion,” said principal Gasparini, who did not attend the rally, ”I’m very proud of them.”