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Why LI students are walking out, in their own words

On March 14, one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, thousands of students in schools across the country will walk out of their classes.

Several young activists on Long Island are planning to join the movement, walking out of their schools at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims.

Some say they’re tired of Congress’s failure to pass gun control measures. Others knew people killed or injured in Parkland, Florida and fear a mass shooting could occur at their schools. And many say they were inspired by the activism they’ve seen from their peers in Florida and want to be heard.

Ahead of the demonstration, we spoke to some students about why they’re participating in the walkout.

Alexandra Weissman, senior at Roslyn High School

School administrators have organized a memorial for the 17 victims to take place on March 14, but Weissman, 18, is also asking her peers to walk out, she said.

“This day is supposed to be about students coming together and standing for something that they believe in,” Weissman said. “It’s our duty as students to do that and not necessarily administration.”

Andrew Goldman and Brooke Matalon, seniors at Syosset High School

“There’s a lot of anger and divisiveness, even at our school,” Goldman, 18, said. “But everyone is in favor of there being less school shootings, a greater feeling of safety and wanting to come to a sensible solution on this topic. That’s why we’re walking.”

Hayden Gise, senior at George W. Hewlett High School

Gise, 17, said the shooting “hit home” for a lot of his classmates who knew survivors in Parkland and Scott Beigel, a teacher who was killed while trying to save some of his students.

“We’ve all heard of these mass shootings but it’s different to actually know someone,” Gise said. “It’s why a lot of students in our school are passionate about this.”

There’s been a lot of talk about the demonstration, with some students worried about participating in an event that’s not sanctioned by the school, Gise said.

“They don’t want to break rules, but sometimes you have to break rules to do what you believe in,” he said.

Amritha Jacob, freshman at Sanford H. Calhoun High School

“Every generation has their own movement, this just happens to be ours,” said Jacob, 14.

Alexa Rapisarda, senior at West Islip High School

Rapisarda, 17, said the focus of the West Islip walkout will be to honor the victims of the shooting. She and others are planning a separate demonstration on April 20 to advocate for gun control.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about gun control, or what would happen if there was a shooting at our school. A lot of students are looking to get involved and have their voices be heard.”

Carson Termotto, junior at Sanford H. Calhoun High School

Termotto, 16, was one of a handful of students at a meeting to discuss the Hewlett walkout. Some considered shifting the focus of the demonstration away from politics, but Termotto insisted on staying focused on promoting “common-sense gun reform.”

“After the shooting, I think it became apparent that something in this country really needs to change. This happens again and again and again. There is a lot of reluctance to do anything in our Congress. That’s really what our walkout’s about — about action and change instead of thoughts and prayers.”

Lindsay Saginaw, senior at Huntington High School

“Schools are the one place that we’re supposed to feel safe. So when we’re walking out for 17 minutes, it’s to show state and federal government that this epidemic of gun violence needs to end now,” said Saginaw, 17.

Bennett Owens, senior at Ward Melville High School

“There are certain people [at Ward Melville] that are on the other side of the gun control issue and there are people who aren’t really politically active,” said Owens, 18. “But for the most part, people are pretty together on this one. Congress should do something about this.”

Samantha Koffler, junior at Sanford H. Calhoun High School

Koffler, 16, said seeing other young activists speak out has helped her find her own voice.

“I usually try not to get very political but as soon as this all started, I’ve been learning to become a lot more outspoken. To fight for our rights just like everyone else.”