In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, 17-year-old Stephanie Navarrete says she hasn’t felt safe nearly 1,400 miles away at Nicholas Senn High School.
On Friday, Navarrete, a senior, joined hundreds of others from Senn to issue an S.O.S. of a different kind — one urging Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and other legislators to “save our students.”
“There’s so much going on and we’re very aware of it,” Navarrete said. “Just because it hasn’t happened here doesn’t mean that it can’t. It can happen to anyone at any school and we shouldn’t have to be concerned for our safety at school, but lives are being taken.”
Marching down to Schakowsky’s field office on Broadway Street, students, armed with megaphones and signs, chanted “never again” and “no guns, no NRA, no more violence, USA.”
Onlookers honked or cheered along as the students passed.
The walkout at Senn is among the latest in a wave of student-led actions calling for gun reform across the country and in Chicago area.
Last Wednesday, students at Youth Connection Leadership Academy walked out of their school, calling for community resources to address gun violence.
Students also led a march for gun reform days after the Parkland shooting from Federal Plaza to Trump Tower.
At a CPS board meeting Wednesday, CEO Janice Jackson said she fully supports students’ “desire to speak out.” Schools are safe spaces, she said, and “students should feel empowered to make their voices heard.”
Students at Senn had a weeklong call to action, featuring a rally, a class on protesting and two days of sign making before Friday’s walkout, which focused on empowering young people to speak out and create change.
Meitav Aaron, one of the organizers, said the purpose of the day was not only to rally for gun control, but to also remember those who have died in mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, at a concert in Las Vegas and others.
“The victims of the epidemic that is gun violence in America are not just some cold statistic, some sad number,” Aaron said. “They were people. They were not mere numbers, but someone’s whole world.”
When they reached Schakowsky’s office, students spoke about the need to “take control of their future.”
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Ill., said with the “energy generated by young people,” real changes were already starting to be made. Illinois was the first state, she said, to respond to the shooting with action.
Senn Senior Ruby Levin said the current state of inaction at the federal level is “unacceptable,” and that the show of numbers at Friday’s meeting shows she and other students are serious.
“Nobody needs more guns,” Levin said. “People have a right to bear arms, but this is too much and it has gone on for too long. We need more security, not more high-powered weapons like the ones we keep seeing in these shootings.”