18 Minutes on March 14th
Ken, CS16 Student (Beloit, WI)

It was my pleasure to assist Ken with this post. ~Kate Houle, Communications Specialist

We stood there in the commons a few minutes into the silence.

I took a chance and offered my hands to the people next to me.

They accepted... and it spread. We became a circle.

Moments earlier we had all walked out.

Simultaneously.

With others across the country to stand silently.

In OUR commons area. In the snow. Among the trees.

I wanted to describe that moment.

Because I felt it.

I believe that was the most powerful moment during the silence. We all did it without hesitation and not only in solidarity with each other in our hearts and minds, but in solidarity with those across the country.

Doing the same.

To RESPECT those who died.

We walked out for 18 minutes, 17 for each of the 17 victims of the Parkland, FL shooting a month earlier. And one more for ALL the other victims of gun violence.

As you probably know, this was with a nationwide walkout of students and staff from schools on March 14th to honor the lives of those lost in the Parkland, FL shooting and to call on lawmakers for gun control reform.

Most of the students of CS16 wanted to be a part of it but nobody had organized it here yet, so I did.

Conserve School teaches us to be advocates for our beliefs, so I was.

I helped organize this at Conserve for a few reasons:

One of the reasons is that I could not personally help others around the country, like my siblings and friends back home, that were also organizing, standing up, and saying, "we want action."

Also, I knew that some students at Conserve have probably (sadly, statistically) been affected by gun violence. Or that their sending school is part of the MOVEMENT. And we could show solidarity with not only our community but with those back home.

But even in this small like-minded community not everyone has the same views on the gun control debate. I wanted to RESPECT that.

I will admit, I did not realize that at first. I was surprised, and if it was not for a few quiet words that helped remind me of that, then there could have been more conflict later on.

So, I sent out emails to make it clear that: "If you feel uncomfortable walking out or it is against your values then don't. There is no requirement to and I hope I can speak for everyone when I say, we will RESPECT your personal decision and not criticize you."

And in the end over 90% of the students walked out along with great staff SUPPORT.

But wait. I need to give recognition. Without other students it would not have been possible.

Other students helped me by reading off the names of the 17 victims of the Parkland, FL shooting, comforting others, showing SUPPORT, and most of all, being there.

After the silence and reading of names I wanted to relay the message I had been saying throughout the days before.

And give more thanks.

So I said:

"As I made clear, there was no requirement to come out here. And I hope you are here for your own purposes and not because of peer pressure. Today we came together as a community to honor the lives of those lost to or affected by gun violence. We also came here to show solidarity with fellow students across the country doing the same thing and advocating for gun control reform. And I encourage you all to remember this moment if not the names so that we can create a healthy dialogue about gun violence and other social issues in OUR community. If you wish to talk, I am always here. And I hope that others here will also play a role like that too. Thank you for listening and honoring these lives lost. May you have a great day. You may disperse back to class now."

After that, many people were emotional, some crying and others hugging.

There were many who thanked me, but I only did what most of the students here would have done. I was just compelled to take action. I needed to act. My peers, my inspiration.

We showed we are open to conversation.

We showed solidarity with communities close and far.

We speak out with words and action.

I believe we made a very powerful impact on our small CS16 community.

Though, do not forget, the gun debate does not disappear after that day.

We can keep it alive in many ways, like social media, conversations, letters, etc.

#Enough #NeverAgain #LetsKeepTalkingAboutIt

Social media is one of our most powerful tools for advocating, use it!

Do not allow fear and discomfort to keep you from bringing it up in a conversation.

Politics should not be confined to certain (appropriate) times, because political decisions affect us. Not talking about it does not make it go away. Not talking about it does not show respect.

For victims.

Through civilized conversation WE can learn from others, say what we believe in, and make a better informed decision, argument, or world in the future.

Students walking out of LABMore students walking out of LABStudents in commonsstudents walking out to commonsstudents in commonsminutes of silence

Photos contributed by Rob Houle, Media Specialist