BY BRYANA CIELO
On Wednesday, March 14, Sacred Heart University gave students the opportunity to participate in the Never Again National School Walkout.
From 10:00 to 10:17 a.m., students were permitted to leave their classrooms and gather outside the chapel to honor of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. One minute was dedicated to each person who lost their life that day.
“Everyone said after the Sandy Hook massacre that something had to change—surely we can’t go back to business as usual after 20 sweet little children were killed. But the country always seems to go back to politics and life as usual,” said Dr. Brian Stiltner, professor of Theology and Religious Studies.
The Never Again movement was started by the survivors of the Parkland shooting, who was in attendance at school while 17 of their classmates and faculty lost their lives.
These students decided that they would do everything they could to make sure nothing like this ever happened again. Quickly they were recognized throughout social media and people all over the world showed their support.
At hundreds of high schools and colleges across the nation, students left class to rally together with chants, signs, moments of silence and even singing. Even schools in Israel and Tanzania held walkouts.
During Sacred Heart’s walkout, students in attendance heard words from Stiltner, senior Kristina Payne, and sophomore Allie Amazan, frontrunners of Sacred Heart’s movement against gun violence.
Over 200 people in attendance also honored the victims of not only the Parkland shooting but all shootings with five minutes of silence.
“ It was so empowering to be surrounded by so many classmates and fellow students that were honoring those who have lost and fighting for social justice,” said junior Nikki Bettinelli. “I had the privilege of going with my whole class standing up for others. It was inspiring to hear all of the speakers speak.”
Stiltner is the faculty advisor of Sacred Heart’s newest club, SHU Students Against Gun Violence. Payne is also an advocate against gun violence and leader of this group.
The club is aimed at encouraging Sacred Heart students to get more involved in politics, regardless of their opinions.
Some students may also be introduced to politics for the first time.
“I think the movement shows that the country is tired of their children dying and that we’re ready for a change. The people demonstrating are the people who are voting, too,” said Payne. “So, these national movements seem to be indicating strong change coming in the future.”
SHU Students Against Gun Violence is planning to attend the March For Our Lives Protest in Hartford. After that, they are planning to implement more political activity onto Sacred Heart’s campus.
“I am hoping that the walkout and other related events later this month and in April will help to carry forward the momentum they have generated. These young people are the hope for our future on this and so many other important issues,” said Dr. Gerald Reid, a sociology professor, who is also a leader of SHU Students Against Gun Violence.
The March for Our Lives protest in Hartford will take place at 12:30 p.m. on March 24. Following the march, there will be a rally held at 1 p.m. According to the official Facebook page, 2,700 people are planning on being in attendance and more than 11,000 people are interested.
“I look forward to going to Hartford on Saturday and again standing among others for social justice,” said Bettinelli.
“Because the Parkland High School students have been so articulate and committed, they are shaping the public conversation in a new way, and that some laws could change in Florida is a promising sign,” said Stiltner. “I hope Sacred Heart students recognize that they have similar untapped power.”