Change is here and young people are at the forefront.
Following the fatal February 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida – which took the lives of 17 staff and students – survivors were left feeling terrified, angry and devastated. More importantly though, they were left with a spark ignited within them.
Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas started the national movement Never Again, advocating for comprehensive gun reform and making the safety of students in school a priority. On March 24, the students and some 800,000 people took to the streets of Washington, D.C. and were joined by hundreds of thousands of others in cities around the world in a protest called March for Our Lives.
When college student Yasmin Mendoza, 21, saw the Parkland students rise up and speak out against politicians and the National Rifle Association (NRA), she realized that she couldn’t just sit around and watch anymore.
“I knew I needed to stand up and be a part of this change,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza, along with other local students, organized March for Our Lives Fresno, which saw over 2,000 people gather at Fresno High School.
To start the event, Mendoza held back tears as she honored the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting by reading their names aloud. In memory of their lives, 17 white dove balloons were released.
Before the march commenced, the March for Our Lives Fresno students took the stage and spoke to the crowd denouncing easy access to assault rifles, the NRA and politicians.
Rep. Devin Nunes in the 22nd Congressional District was called out by numerous speakers for taking money from the NRA and his silence and inaction towards gun reform.
Other speakers included Matt Rogers, a representative from Senator Kamala Harris’ office, and congressional candidate for the upcoming midterm elections, Andrew Janz.
In an interview before Saturday’s events, Mendoza said the purpose of the march was to call out politicians to make school safety a priority.
“[School] is where learning happens. That is where we are cultivating an environment of education that is preparing students for the future,” she said.
Mendoza continued and said the safety of our children is the most important thing and that this is not the time to take political sides. She also hopes the march will help lead to a change in leadership, especially with midterm elections coming up later in the year.
“We have [Devin Nunes] taking money from a gun lobbyist group,” Mendoza said. “He’s been doing it for a long time, along with other congressmen, and I don’t think that will change unless we get out there and vote.
“To those who aren’t supporting us, we’ll see you at the polls,” she continued. “We’re fed up and we’re not going to put up with politicians who aren’t putting the safety of young students first. You won’t be in office much longer if you aren’t listening to the majority of the American people.”
Mendoza hopes the march will inspire young people within our own community to get out, vote and have their own voices be heard.
“We need to encourage student voices,” Mendoza said. “Young people, the youth, are the future of this country. I hope the students participating in these walkouts and marches also participate in the polls once they’re of age.”
Clovis student and speaker Elizabeth Grubb said, “We will be the generation that ends mass shootings.”
Even after their success, the students behind March for Our Lives Fresno aren’t showing signs of slowing down.
For their next steps, the students have already organized and are hosting a town hall on April 7 to have an open dialogue about gun violence. They have extended an invite to Rep. Devin Nunes to attend.
In a statement received by KMJ News from Nunes’ Director of Communications Jack Langer, Nunes will be unable to attend the town hall as he will be “traveling abroad on Intelligence Committee business.”
For more information about the town hall or to stay connected with March for Our Lives Fresno, follow them on social media:
This article orignally ran in The kNOw Youth Media. Click here to read it there.