Local students organize events in wake of Florida school shooting

By Mike Ramczyk

Staff Writer

While local school districts remain neutral regarding National School Walkout Day, students said they are tired of sitting around and waiting for something to happen.

And they planned to do something about it.

On Wednesday, students at Burlington, Waterford, Union Grove and Catholic Central high schools planned to honor the 17 victims of the mass shooting Feb. 14 at a Florida high school with student-organized walkouts.

With parental permission, students were planning to leave classes at 10 a.m. and gather peacefully with classmates for 17 minutes, or one minute for each of the victims.

Burlington students planned on writing letters to Congress asking for changes to gun laws and to victims’ families. Union Grove’s walkout was planned to include a speech on the football field, according to a student organizer.

At Waterford, things were poised to potentially become contentious.

While one gathering was scheduled to honor the victims, another was set up to tout Second Amendment rights. The two groups, however, were instructed to gather in separate areas of the school – one in the atrium and the other in the cafeteria.

And at Catholic Central High School, the walkout was planned around a student prayer that also invited members of the community.

“As students, we’re very much ignored,” said Mariana Beltran Hernandez, a Burlington High School senior who organized her school’s walkout. “If we actually reach out, they’ll listen. Together, we become a force. We’re showing that enough is enough. We want things to change.

“A lot of people participating in the walkout come from families that own guns,” she added. “We don’t want to take away guns. We’re just fighting against guns in the wrong hands. There’s a gun problem and we shouldn’t have to be scared at school.”

      To read the full story about what students had planned for National Walkout School Day at each of the local schools, pick up this week’s editions of the Burlington Standard Press, Waterford Post and Westine Report.