Blacksburg students take part in National School Walkout

Students calling attention to school violence, gun reform

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Students across the country, including hundreds in Southwest Virginia, took part in Friday's National School Walkout.

This is the third nationwide event since the Parkland, Florida, school shooting to call attention to school violence and gun reform.

"The energy that our young people have around the issue has really galvanized me and many other people across the nation that now is the time to act and now, maybe, finally something can be different and this conversation can change," said Mindy Quigley, co-organizer of Friday's "One Voice Blacksburg" event that happened as a part of the walkout.

During the "One Voice" event, students and parents read the names of schools that have been affected by violence, including two in the New River Valley. Thirty-two people died in the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. Two people were hurt in a shooting at New River Community College in 2013.

Blacksburg High School junior Fiona McMichael was in kindergarten when the Virginia Tech shooting happened.

"Being 5 years old and having to worry about whether or not I was going to live through the day isn't something anybody should experience in this country," McMichael said.

She hoped the walkout and "One Voice" event would help create change across the country.

"It's not a problem with mental illness," McMichael said. "It's not a problem anymore with leaving people out of clubs or groups or sports, it's a problem with guns. And legislation needs to be changed and written to make sure nobody else in this country loses their lives."

During the event, parents and students held signs that read "Never again" and "Protect our students." Participants said it's important that students speak up about what's going on.

"Let's figure things out now. So that way, when we get to that age where we're able to run for office, we're able to take seats in the House and Congress, even the presidency, we know what we're doing and we're advocating in the right direction," said Neha Hudait, a senior at Blacksburg High School.

"Especially now, a lot of the legislation is directly impacting us, so we need to be able to take a stand and have that voice," Hudait said.

Students could also register to vote at Friday's event.

"This is an issue that people care about and are voting on, because there's nothing as important to us as the lives of our kids," Quigley said.    

About the Author: