Students across the country have continued to raise their voice in the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, Florida that took the lives of 17 people. On March 14 a student walkout took place at schools across the region, including in Darien where nearly one thousand students participated. On March 24, a March for Our Lives took place in Stamford, as well as in cities across the country, in which students, parents, elected officials, and others further raised their voice, demanding safer schools and common sense gun control reform.
Katherine Lester, a student at Darien High School, spoke at the Stamford march. Lester is a member of a committee comprised of students from Darien, Stamford, and Greenwich that organized participation on the walkout two weeks ago.
Watch her speaking:
“It was amazing. I’d say roughly 2000 people, all very supportive of each other, holding up signs, I met a lot of students, it was really amazing,” Lester said, adding that the crowd included one of her teachers from Darien High School.
“The mood was one of support. Some people were angry about what was going on, but the mood was just hopeful for change,” Lester said. She added that the mood was one of “community and togetherness, even if you weren’t from Stamford or Darien,” and said that those in attendance were definitely aware of their part in the larger movement across the country.
Speakers included elected officials such as State Senator Carlo Leone and Stamford Mayor David Martin, as well as Lester.
“My speech focused on school safety. I talked about how students shouldn’t fear going to school. We need to address several issues that come along with common sense gun laws. Children are the future. It’s our time to rise up and demand the change we want to see because we have that power,” Lester said. She said she initially felt a little scared to speak in front of a large crowd, but that ultimately, “it was very empowering.”
Music legend Paul Simon was also in attendance and performed briefly.
“Even though we are the future leaders of the country, we are underrepresented and we don’t always get to express ourselves freely,” Lester said of the event. She also said that the feedback on her participation has been very positive.
“My teachers were saying how wonderful it was and how proud they were. Fellow students were saying it was awesome and powerful.”
Lester was the only speaker from Darien, although in the long run, she and other students are aiming to change that. She, along with students from other schools in the area, has started Students Union for Political Expression and Representation, or SUPER.
“We are a student body which seeks to empower students to express their ideas so that they be represented politically in an attempt to change policy for the safety of the student betterment at large,” Lester said. A number of Lesters fellow students in SUPER attended the march, although Lester was the only one that spoke.
Darien residents also attended other marches held nationwide Saturday. Carrier Bernier, executive director of the Community Fund of Darien, attended March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. She was joined by her daughter, Sophie Petti, an eighth grader at Ox Ridge School, as well as her two sisters, Nichole Bernier, a Massachusetts resident, and her sister Suzanne Bernier Hausler, who flew in from San Francisco.
Darien Times columnist Rebecca Martorella attended the march in Boston Saturday.
On April 20, another student walkout is planned as part of a national event. The organization of the April 20 walkout began with the online petition of a Ridgefield High School student, Lane Murdock, which now has over 250,000 signatures.