PITTSBURG — At precisely 10 a.m. on Wednesday, several high school students and a few teachers gathered outside at the Pittsburg High School courtyard to promote gun regulations and commemorate the victims from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
PHS students Journey Jaramillo and Ximena Ibarra shared with the crowd about what they could do as students to get their message out, which included voting when they turn 18 and sharing on social media.
Jaramillo and Ibarra are part of a student group called Equality Club, which organized the event.
The group is sponsored by Spanish Teacher Angie Pallares and English Teacher Melissa Fite-Johnson. The group has about 40 members.
“We mainly just like to promote equality and let everyone know they have place in school whether they share the same views or not.” Jaramillo said.
The pair are also involved in several other student organizations at the high school such as newspaper, debate and forensics.
Ibarra said after realizing what students can do, seeing the walkout become a national movement, they decided to bring it to their own school.
“They were really passionate and it was so inspiring to see high school students take on politicians like Marco Rubio and people like that face-on and hold them accountable like they are supposed to be, and I think that the status quo politicians prefer their donations from the NRA than ... from people like us,” Ibarra said. “We may not be able to vote now, but I know when I turn 18 I will vote against people that silence us as students.”
Jaramillo said they used the club as a way to encourage students who were not comfortable going.
“We didn't necessarily do it as the Equality Club, but as something to help students who didn’t feel safe to join,” she said.
After an unofficial meeting with the principal — who mentioned some concerns — he guided them to school administrators.
“They were very open minded,” Jaramillo said. “There was, of course, hesitation because of the procedural stuff, of students leaving class and how that would go.
“We met in the middle and were able to come up with the best idea to illustrate it.”
What motivated Jaramillo to help organize the event is her own experience of gun violence — her brother was shot and killed.
“My brother did pass away of gun violence,” she said. “I do feel strongly about gun control.
“We just want to get things to a point where kids feel safe to go to school.
“Gun control is definitely a need and we just need to find a way to make people feel safe in America, and I feel like a lot of that comes from guns,” Jaramillo.
Ibarra said she thinks people should focus on gun control as a start, then work on ways to handle other issues such as bullying and mental illnesses.
“We need to do something more instead of thoughts and prayers,” she said.
During the event, Johnson talked to the students to clear misconceptions about gun control, which, she said was inspired by what the Equality Club has done.
“There are discussions out there about what gun control actually is, one way is to have conversations with people that no one is going into everyone's homes and taking away the guns they currently have, were just talking about really common sense things like background checks,” Fite-Johnson said.
Other students and staff had an opportunity to share their thoughts at the event, which ranged from their own experiences with mental health, bullying, how to vote and what gun control means.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.