On Friday, February 16, the students of Andover High School took the first steps in continuing the conversation about school violence following the Parkland shooting.
As the country mourned the loss of seventeen high schoolers, certain students began to come together and fight for a change. Since then Andover High Schoolers have held gatherings to talk about gun violence in America. A group of students, led by Charlotte Lowell, travelled to the State House on March 14 to take action. Lowell and other students plan to continue the conversation through a club that they will soon unite.
Lowell has developed into a figure of Andover High School who unites the community with the common goal of continuing the conversation. On February 15, she had the idea to send out a Facebook post to her class’s page mentioning how she planned to have a school discussion the next day. Since then, she has continued to make her voice heard and provide other students with the opportunity for their voices to be heard. She said, “We will be in the history books as the generation that works tirelessly to end gun violence in America.”
As for the next steps, Lowell mentioned that “on April 7th, we are working on planning a Town Hall for Our Lives to meet with our representatives and ask them questions about how they are supporting gun reform in Massachusetts.” Her passion for the end of school violence has inspired others greatly.
When visiting the State House the group of students spoke to Barbara L’Italien, a state senator for the second Essex and Middlesex counties. What started out as a quick discussion about legislation turned into a deeper and powerful conversation. Students spoke to L’Italien about their role in ending gun violence and how to make a change. Andover High students and L’Italien discussed ways to get involved and how to continue fighting.
“You deserve a voice in Congress who will listen to your needs and fight for your future,” stated L’italien. “Your activism and energy has already started to create tangible change.”
Students have created a Facebook page and Instagram account to share their message and updates called “Andover Freedom from Fear.” They post information about gatherings and organized events to keep the conversation about gun violence going. Andover Freedom from Fear has also, in weeks past, been calling forums for people to discuss their concerns and give them a chance to ask questions. “I’ve discussed the idea of turning Andover Freedom From Fear into a formal club at the high school,” stated Evie Wybenga, a senior at AHS. “Even if it never turns into a club, every member of Andover High and the Andover community in general is welcome.”
To continue the discussion about gun violence AHS students have worked hard to make sure that their voices are heard. “I think for our school specifically, it’s important to provide a combination of educational meetings, to keep students informed on gun violence in the US and on legislature and legislative processes, and demonstrations, to keep students engaged and encourage them to use their voices,” stated Wybenga. Students have taken steps beginning with the sit in days after the Parkland shooting to participating in the March for Our Lives in Boston. According to students involved, more is expected to come to keep people talking about guns and gun safety.
Another participant in the continuing of the school violence conversation is sophomore Ethan Gasse. Many students that were seen marching together were mainly upperclassmen but Gasse is on the younger side and is a future potential leader of Andover Freedom From Fear. He said, “Some people forget that this conversation is all about the kids, and how the kids are shaping the future of this country,” and added that he knew that in the upcoming years through high school and on he will continue his participation in the conversation and help lead to a change. One of Gasse’s inspirations is Mohandas Gandhi, who was able to make a difference in the world through boycotts and marches, and Gasse believes that the students throughout the United States can do the same.
When asked about how he felt of his students continuing the conversation, AHS Principal Conrad said he was inspired. He said, “I think that when so many young people get the country to stop and take notice of an issue that is so important to them that it can change the way people think about school safety and I hope that it will make school safer for all of us.”
By Livy Hodge and Sonja Johnson