duPont Manual students hope nationwide walkout sparks change in response to school shootings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – They stood silently as the name of each victim in shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and Marshall County in Benton, Ky., was read.

About 900 duPont Manual High School students participated in the National School Walkout in honor of the 17 Florida shooting victims on Wednesday, with students across the country walking out of class for 17 minutes in memory of those lost in the Feb. 14 violence.

Manual organizers also included time to recognize the two students lost in the Jan. 23 Marshall County shooting and held signs that included pictures of those killed as their names were read.

It was a sobering reminder that most of those lost were just like them – students going through an otherwise normal school day before their lives were tragically cut short.

Audrey Champelli, a junior at Manual, said the response by Marjory Stoneman Douglas students to the Feb. 14 shooting inspired students like her to speak up and make their voices heard. Manual students also held a voter registration drive before the walkout.

“What’s different about now being in school and this movement is that the Parkland students have given us a group of people that we can really see ourselves in,” Champelli told reporters after students filed back into Manual.

“We can see ourselves in these students, and students across the nation can see themselves in these students, so students are mobilizing, they’re more active, and I think that’s what’s going to cause change.”

Fons Cervera, a Manual senior, says he hopes the peaceful demonstrations across the country spark change.

To those who say the nationwide school walkouts won’t accomplish anything, Cervera says they don’t understand what students face these days.

“It’s just like with politicians,” he said. “I think that they need to listen more to people who are in schools, to people that are going to schools to understand what we’re actually going through and what we’re experiencing.”

“People want to feel safe going to school, and they had that luxury, so we should as well,” Cervera added.

Some Manual students also plan to travel to Washington, D.C., for the “March for Our Lives” rally that’s being organized by Marjory Stoneman Douglas students on March 24.

Nyah Mattison, a senior at Manual, said she was moved by Wednesday’s demonstration at her school and also hoped to see walkouts across the country initiate change.

For her, that means banning AR-15 rifles like the one used in Marjory Stoneman Douglas last month, raising the age to buy firearms to 21 and enacting stricter background checks before gun purchases.

“I believe that this is something that should have never happened and it is something that should never happen again, so we’re marching because we believe that our lives matter, that our lives are important and they should never be infringed upon when we are in school or in any other place,” Mattison said.

“And the only step to do so is to make sure that the federal government knows that we’re out here and that we believe that this should not happen again.”

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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