In schools throughout Long Island and our country, students used March 14th—the one-month anniversary of the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—as a day to walk out in solidarity with those who lost lives on that day.
At Wheatley, we used this day in a manner that showed students how they can effect change by making their voices heard. In our Social Studies classes, students were given the assignment to come to class with an issue—any issue—of concern. During class, Social Studies teachers would show students how to go about finding their local, state and federal representatives and send an email to one or more of them expressing their concern. In our 12th grade classes, students would also register to vote.
At 10:00 am, teachers, students and staff gathered in our Main Courtyard to discuss the importance of civic engagement and reflect on the power of making one’s voice heard. Two of our student leaders, Alexandra Ostad and Rachel Fuzaylov, shared the following prepared statement:
We are all gathered here today to recognize the power of our voices. Across the country, we have been reminded of this power through the actions of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As we recognize the voices of those who have survived, we also commemorate the victims of the too many school shootings our country has faced. We are also here to self reflect and understand that school shootings, among a plethora of threatening issues don’t stop without action.
Every single one of us has a voice. What makes us all different is how we decide to use our words to advocate for change. No matter what our beliefs are, each of one of us is lucky to have the right to speak our minds, as many teens just like us are often silenced. Don’t take this right for granted, sitting quietly will not bring change, no matter what that change is. We ask you not to simply talk the talk, but to walk the walk. Use your words to express yourself and understand the magnitude of your strength. Today, in class, be passionate with the emails you write to your local, state or federal representatives; this is not an activity to waste time. Students like us across the country have used their voices to make local and state change, so why can’t we? No one is telling you what to write, just write!
We cannot ignore the fact that we stand here today to also commemorate the lives lost in school shootings nationwide. Recently as we all know, our nation was struck with a school shooting in Parkland, Florida and 17 innocent lives were lost. These were students and teachers just like us. We are so lucky to call Wheatley our school and a safe space, a space that fosters expression and intellect. Be proud of the high school you attend and use the foundation you were given to speak up for what you believe! A powerful voice is beyond the books, it is something that everyone has within them. We can all make a change in whatever we put our minds to. We are the future and we will be heard.
Although we’ve taken a moment of silence already, students are taking a moment of silence across the country to commemorate the 17 victims. Let’s take a moment of silence now.
We are fortunate to have such committed and strong-willed students as part of our school. As their principal, I could not be more proud of what I witnessed today!