Radford middle, high school students take politics out of walkout

Students shift the focus back to the victims of the shooting

By Rachel Lucas - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

RADFORD - Faculty members allowed students at Radford Middle and High School to participate in an organized demonstration inside the building Wednesday as part of the nationwide walkout tens of thousands of students across the country took part in. But in an effort to make it their own, after an inspiring speech from a Radford High School teacher about the value of their generation's ideas, classmates walked out of the auditorium, for their own demonstration on the football field, making her words only echo more clearly.

Students there said the walkout was unique because they wanted to take the political statement out of the movement, and instead put the focus back on the victims who were killed in Parkland.

Standing hand in hand outside in a silent snowfall on the football field, students took a moment to remember each of the Parkland victims, reading their names aloud after a chime.

They were powerful moments for students who not only took the time to reflect but to answer a call to action.

"It lit a fire in a lot of people's hearts," said Radford High School senior Liam Jessie. 

A fire Jessie said was worth shivering in the cold for. He said students were happy to suffer a few moments in the cold considering what children and families in Florida were going through.

"It doesn't matter how cold it is outside, it's not about our comfort, it's about their respect," Jessie said.

The shooting at Stoneman Douglas was a tragedy that not only captured the fears of parents, but also students.
After weeks of heated political debate, Radford High School senior Brett Wingo said it was time for healing.

"Everybody realized that it's not necessarily a fault, but a disaster,” Wingo said.

It was a time for students to finally be heard. Looking on, teachers knew they were staring at a generation who will most likely be left to deal with the problem. It is a mature lesson for eigth-grade Radford Middle School student Anna Turk and her classmates.

"It brought us all together as fellow classmates for us to realize that we aren't alone. There is a lot us and we can stand up for something,” Turk said.

School Board member Jessie Critterton attended the event. She said it made her proud how the students walked out of the auditorium, and respectfully made the demonstration their own.

"They respectfully said, ‘We really meant student led.’ ‘Thank you, but you can follow us and figure out where we are headed’...and we all did. We all scrambled,” Critterton said. She said adults in the room first concern was about their safety, but soon realized that a beautiful thing was happening.

"We have a whole generation of young people that we've told, 'Your voice matters; you have to take care of one another.  You truly are the future. You make a difference.' So, then they do,” Critterton said.

Copyright 2018 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.