NMHS Students Call for a Change

Carolyn Gevinski

The recent climate at New Milford High School and schools around the country in the month following the shooting in Parkland Florida has been one of resignation. However, in times of political fray, one thing remains certain. It is time for change. No matter how it comes about, or whichever solution is reached, it is time for compromise. It is time for students to use their voices and defend against the forces that threaten their liberty to a safe education.

The students of New Milford High School did just this on Wednesday, March 14th, when those who were passionate about empowerment decided to organize their own movement. This was a separate, non-politically affiliated movement, that emphasized the power the youth has to influence the resolution of the horrors that have occured in schools around the nation, and honored the 17 lives lost in the recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

We may not all agree on how change should come about, but we all agree that change is necessary, and that is the key message of this movement. The opening speech given by Senior Carolyn Gevinski articulated this common message, and honored the lives lost at Parkland with a minute of silence for the deceased and their families. She also read the names of the victims as a gong was rung.

Following this meaningful moment, Ivanna Torres, a Junior, spoke. Miss Torres was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas for her first two years of high school and moved to New Milford at the beginning of her Junior year. Her words were sincerely gripping and she had the audience hanging onto her every word. Ivanna finished with a stroke of beautiful resilience. “Parkland is my home, Douglas is my second home, and every student is my family. I may not be there anymore, but I will always be positive, passionate and proud to have been an Eagle.”

The next speaker, Senior Brianna LeRose, relayed a message of kindness and compassion that is equally as important as using our voices and speaking up. These acts of violence that tear our country apart can be prevented through various solutions, but one of the most clear is simply kindness. Brianna reminded us of the importance of always reaching out to those who may seem alone or afraid.

Katie Grinnell, who was the brains behind much of the operation of the NMHS student movement, also spoke, relaying a message of respectful disagreement and expressing one’s opinion without belittling another’s perspective. When asked about her views on the movement, Katie tells me, “I think the movement was fantastic. For those students that came it was a respectful and positive climate to be unified as a student body with legitimate concerns. It was completely silent while we read the names of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and that goes to show how mature everyone was during the movement. Afterwards I received overwhelmingly positive and grateful comments from teachers, parents, and students. I’m proud of how we conducted ourselves as a student body during the movement and I’m thankful we were given a platform to let our voices be heard.”

Senior Greg Winklestern closed the event by reminding us that simple acts such as smiling can create a positive change in our own lives and the lives of others around us. Greg emphasized small, selfless acts of kindness, and the importance of events such as NAMES, The Truth About Hate, and SADD.

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response the student movement received, there was undeniably an opposing backlash. Many parents took to Facebook, complaining that their children were being forced to comply to a political agenda. While these criticisms were not unfounded- parents and taxpayers have a right to worry- they were misguided. The movement’s intention was one of empowerment of our nation’s youth and memorium to those lost in the Parkland shooting, not politicism or gun control. The overwhelming responses from students and parents standing up to this negativity and barbarity was a beautiful occurrence. The fact that hundreds of students attended a movement based on solidarity and compassion is a hopeful promise that the youth of this country truly have the ability to make a change.

Deb Vlangas, a Senior, was among those who wrote back respectfully to those belittling the hard work of NMHS students. “No matter what you throw at us we will continue to fight for what we believe in. What we deserve. Safety and understanding. Kindness and attention. Respect and maturity.” And in this statement, we see that the youth of New Milford, and further, the youth of the United States, is refusing to back down in the face of our safety being violated. We are students, we are change.