Apr 03

Randolph Student's Account of D.C. March

By Natalie Strand, Randolph Union High School sophomore

On Friday, March 23, I boarded the Amtrak in Randolph with 11 of my peers and three teachers, not knowing what to expect of the March of Our Lives in Washington DC. I’ve been to protests before, small ones in Montpelier and big city ones in Boston, but never had I marched on Washington before.

My name is Natalie Strand, and I’m a sophomore at Randolph Union High School in Randolph Vermont, and recently I have become involved in the issue of guns and safety in schools around America, and in light of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where seventeen people were gunned down, my feelings about gun control have become stronger. I recently joined a small student led group organizing a walkout on safety and solidarity in schools across America, and on on March 13th, 2018  succeeded in encouraging the majority of RUHS students to walk out of Randolph Union High School for 17 minutes, to honor the students from Florida who lost their lives, and to ask our administration in the high school to improve their safety protocols for all members of the our school system in Randolph, Brookfield and Braintree. Attending the March Of Our Lives in Washington DC this past weekend was a continuation of the work we started at RUHS by organizing the walkout.

After returning from the March for Our Lives on Sunday, my opinions about gun laws and gun control have intensified.  I want stricter gun laws. Never again do I want students to be struck with the fear of being killed in their own educational space. Never again do I want to see faces of anyone, not one victim, that had their life stolen from them. I decided to go to DC with a small group from my school, along with the organizer, Carol McNair. The train ride was long, about eleven hours, but gave me time to think about why myself and my peers decided to take part in such an important event in America.

Walking into the city, I began to feel the same thrill I felt at the Women’s March last January. I could hear the crowd getting louder, and could see the thousands of signs being held up high by all kinds of different people.

My group was dressed in bright orange, to both represent safety in schools and to be seen easily among the 800,000 people present at the March. We arrived in a spot in the crowd, as close as we could get to the stage. The rally began with Andra Day singing the song “Rise Up. ” This is when I  began to feel emotional.

I looked around at the thousands of people who were all here for the same reason, to remember the lives of all who have been affected by gun violence in America.

The rally continued with multiple student speeches from Parkland Florida, Brooklyn New York, Las Vegas, Washington, DC, and many other states from around the United States. I was also inspired by several performers who cried out for safety and solidarity through song. Some of my favorite performers were at the rally including Lin Minuel Miranda, Demi Lovato, Vic Mensa and Jennifer Hudson. Martin Luther King’s granddaughter also gave a heartwarming speech. It was so inspiring to recognize how much support there is for students all over the country, as we ask the simple question of why we should fear for our lives in school?

As I reflect on the moving experience of being a part of this movement, and standing with 800,000 people who traveled from all over the country to attend the rally in Washington DC, I realize the biggest impact on me was hearing the students from Parkland Florida speak. Just over a month ago they experienced the awful reality of gun violence in their public school, and watched their friends brutally lose their lives. Their anger and emotion about the issue in America made me realize how important this is to thousands of students around America, and made me want to get more involved, to spread the word, to protest. They made me want to continue the conversation of violence and gun control laws in my school and community. They made me want to challenge the government’s silencing actions and speak my truth, along with the youth of America.

Submitted to YWP on behalf of Natalie Strand, sophomore, Randolph Union High School by Emily Therrien, English Teacher, Randolph Union High School