duPont Manual students who marched in D.C. hope to keep momentum going

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – They traveled to Washington, D.C., to cover the March for Our Lives rally on Saturday, but students in duPont Manual High School’s journalism program couldn’t help but lend their voices to the more than 200,000 who protested against gun violence in schools.

They interviewed school shooting survivors, activists and protestors during their four-day stay, and some appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, the BBC  and other outlets to share their perspectives on what can be done to make schools safer.

For Manual students who made the 600-mile trip, seeing Pennsylvania Avenue filled with students advocating for change is an experience they won’t forget.

Manual sophomore Evan Showalter described the atmosphere Saturday as “empowering” and supportive. He and others said they’d like to see some reforms in the nation’s gun laws in light of recent deadly shootings at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and Great Mills High School in Great Mills, Md.

“This isn’t a political issue,” Evan said on Monday. “This is an issue – poor or rich, black or white – everybody needs gun reform to keep safe.”

Those who traveled to Washington, D.C., kept a full schedule of interviews to broaden their coverage of Saturday’s march. They met and interviewed Mollie Davis, a student at Great Mills High School; Rain Valladares, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student whom Manual students previously spoke with via Skype; Kenidra Woods, a self-harm and mental health activist from St. Louis; and Mary Beth Tinker, a free speech activist.

Manual senior Robert Spencer said hearing from activists like Woods helped reinforce the fact that violent shootings happen in cities throughout the U.S. every day.

“This issue that we’re dealing with is more than just a suburban school kids issues,” he said.

“This is also a race issue. Gun violence is happening more than just in schools. It’s happening in our communities, so if we really want to fix this problem, we’re going to have to fix it in both our schools and communities because what’s the point in preventing gun violence in school if kids are going home and having to deal with that before they even walk out of the house?”

Manual students are publishing their accounts of Saturday’s march in Manual’s On the Record magazine and on the journalism magnet school’s website,

A highlight for sophomore Noah Keckler was seeing a video he produced Friday get retweeted by Emma Gonzalez, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior and March for Our Lives organizer. That 19-second video has been viewed more than 187,000 times on Twitter.

Others found themselves in front of cameras rather than behind them. An MSNBC crew was embedded with one group of Manual students as they rode to Washington, D.C., while some were interviewed by various outlets.

Manual senior Quintez Brown was interviewed alongside fellow senior Nyah Mattison by MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid, telling her that he would like to see some form of gun control in light of the recent school shootings.

Through that, he said he learned how important the media can be in giving people a voice on issues.

“A lot of times people go voiceless because the media can overlook them, but when you get that platform and you have an opportunity to use that platform, you can use that in such impactful and powerful wants,” Quintez said.

Manual students say they hope to keep the momentum from Saturday’s march going locally and plan to help coordinate town hall meetings in Louisville to discuss gun violence in schools. Some suggested that they’d like to see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a town hall if one is organized.

“Hopefully we keep talking about this issue, and I think that if we stop now after the march, nothing’s going to happen,” said Jordan Grantz, a senior at Manual. “If we keep talking about it then something will happen.”

Those who traveled to Washington, D.C., said they were inspired to see such a large rally organized by young people.

Manual senior Fons Cervera said he doesn’t think most adults understand what it’s like to be a student today, making it more important for high schoolers to have a voice in the conversation about school violence.

“We’re the ones who are experiencing this day in and day out, and I think really the feelings that are going around in high school hallways are feelings that haven’t been there before,” he said.

“I think this is the first time that anyone has felt scared to go to school or anyone has felt that maybe there will be a shooting at the school today. I think that’s something that our generation has experienced, and it’s something that our generation has to end.”

For Manual students who attended the March for Our Lives rally, maintaining that momentum also means getting their peers to the polls during election seasons.

Audrey Champelli, a Manual junior, said the sheer number of students at Saturday’s march should send a signal to policymakers in Congress and statehouses across the country.

“For politicians who are taking money from the (National Rifle Association) and who are not willing to really touch this issue of gun control, it’s because they’re worried about losing their NRA support in their elections,” Audrey said. “… We are the people whose support you should be worried about losing.”

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

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