University High students walk out to protest gun violence

University High students Hope Yuan, Meeros Khattaie and Kimi Galang Villegas listen to the names of those who died in the Parkland Shooting in Florida during their walkout in part of National School Walkout protests happening in high schools nationwide on March 14. 2018. (Ramuel Reyes/The Collegian)

With gray clouds over them, about 50 University High School students gathered in the school’s courtyard Wednesday to remember the lives lost to a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The chilly weather mirrored the mood of the somber memorial on the high school campus, located on the Fresno State campus. It was a moment to realize that the young victims of the latest school shooting were students, just like them.

(Matthew Cunanan/University High School)

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 left 17 people dead. Wednesday’s event lasted precisely 17 minutes – one for each victim.

Students shared spoken word, poetry and held a moment of silence. “Listen to us. Join us,” student speakers said. “We’re here for everyone.”

The spontaneous event was not an isolated one. Thousands of students across the country took part in the “National School Walkout” events organized by students themselves following the deadly shooting in Florida.

Zofia Trexler, a sophomore at the high school, organized the campus walkout. She said her peers felt “rage” after hearing of another mass shooting – and one being at another school.

“This isn’t just a memorial to the 17 people who died in Parkland, but it’s a moment for us to express how we feel and express our frustration with everything that’s going on in our country,” Trexler said.

(Matthew Cunanan/University High School)

She said the staff and administration had mixed emotions on planning a walkout during class time.

“Of course the administration thinks it’s disrespectful for us to skip class for 17 minutes,” Trexler said. “But a lot of the teachers are really supportive and have promised not to give us any consequences for participating in this little assembly we have.”

Trexler and her peers plan to get more students active in speaking out towards injustices, like losing lives to mass shootings. She said she plans on more people involved in community activism with local upcoming events.

She said students will be visiting the office of Andrew Janz on Sunday to make posters. Janz is the Democratic candidate running for California’s 22nd congressional district against Republican Devin Nunes.

Trexler also added that her peers will join other central San Joaquin Valley high schools on March 24 for the national “March for Our Lives.” The Valley march is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Fresno High School, according to an event on Facebook.

(Matthew Cunanan/University High School)

“I’ve met with people from Clovis North, from Sanger from Fresno High and I think us students are finally speaking up and we are finally realizing that something needs to change,” She said.

She said that regardless of their age, she believes the current activism by students has a potential to make a greater impact.

“I think us students are finally speaking up and we are finally realizing that something needs to change in this country,”  Trexler said. “And we might be 15, 16, 17, but we have voices and we have the opportunity to make change.”

Staff writer Angelica Hernandez contributed to this story.

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