Parkland students mark a year since the devastating school shooting I Your Daily Pitch

After Parkland, what metro Atlanta teens say

For some teens, a Florida high school massacre on Feb. 14, 2018, emerged as a defining moment of their generation and a call to action.

Metro Atlanta student activists describe how they’ve changed, what they’ve accomplished and what they want.

Ethan Asher, left, and Kailen Kim march with Congressman John Lewis at the March For Our Lives event in downtown Atlanta on March 24, 2018. Courtesy of Ethan Asher
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ethan Asher, 16

Junior at Centennial High School in Roswell and director of March For Our Lives Georgia

“We did a vigil before the November elections and I talked about the importance of voting. I said, ‘Hi, I’m 16 and I can’t vote and you can’t donate your vote to me. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, but it matters that you vote.’ If I’m this passionate about something I can’t even do yet, others shouldn’t take their power lightly.”

Nurah Abdulhaqq, 15

Sophomore at Chapel Hill High School in Douglas County

As an African-American and a Muslim, Nurah said she sometimes felt the movement wasn’t as inclusive as it should be.

“I’d be asked if I shower in my hijab,” she said. “I felt it was my duty to represent a segment that is often misunderstood and voiceless. But I don’t believe in tokenism.”

Nurah was named outreach coordinator for the Georgia chapter of March For Our Lives. As one of the youngest activists, she said she’s feeling the pressure of the heavy issues while maintaining good grades and a social life.

“I understand the importance, but I’m only 15. Sometimes I just want to hang out with my friends.”

Lian Kleinman, 17

Senior at Pope High School in Cobb County

“From my point of view it was definitely a defining moment for youth all across America. It has been a year, and I don’t feel enough has been done, but little things have which gives some hope for the future,” she said.

“I’ve seen a switch in myself. At the end of last year, I found myself being scared in my own school and running through situations in my own head.” As a senior about to graduate, she’s already worried about the safety of younger students.

Natalie Carlomagno, 16, a junior at Walton High School in Cobb County, helped lead the walkout last year at her school.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Natalie Carlomagno, 16

Junior at Walton High School in Cobb County

“I really do think that people will vote to make change and to be on the right side of history and to do what they know is right. Even though the walkout did happen a long time ago, that feeling of determination and the feeling of responsibility on me and the rest of my peers— it really hasn’t waned that much,” she said. “This is something so dangerous and it’s just staring us right in the head and we can’t just sit around. It’s something that we have to take direct action on.”

Madeleine Deisen, 18, wears a T-shirt calling for gun-law reform during a pancake breakfast at her George Washington University dorm. Deisen helped organized a 2018 student walkout at Cobb County’s Walton High School and said she continues to use the political skills she picked up to campaign for causes and candidates as a first-year college student in Washington.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Madeleine Deisen, 18

Freshman at George Washington University

“When I look back (at) high school there’s a lot of stuff that I did that I’m proud of; honestly that is one of the biggest things that I think about … and one of the things that I learned the most from and I grew the most from, particularly with political organizing,” she said about helping to organize the Walton High School student walkout in Cobb County last year as a senior. “It was the first time I actually had to do anything that requires even a little bit of bravery. My life had been pretty simple.”

She said she remains committed to the cause. “People knew that it wouldn’t happen overnight. It wouldn’t be like that we walk out of our high schools and the next day gun violence is over,” she said. “I’m more optimistic because the past year has been a testament to the strength of the movement.”

Royce Mann, 17

Junior at Grady High School in Atlanta

As a co-chair of the MFOL March on March 24, Royce spent a lot of time and energy in the movement.

“We worked hard and fought hard and we saw results, but things move slowly. It can be frustrating sometimes, but we’ve seen glimmers of hope, like the recent ban on bump stocks and the numerous candidates being elected who support common sense gun safety.”

“Dealing with adult issues showed me that youth can have a positive impact no matter our age.”

Rhea Singi, 15

Sophomore at Wheeler High School in Cobb County

“It hit me personally because I had a lot of friends with ties in Parkland. It is truly devastating. It is a shame that the government isn’t taking any action.”

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