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St. Helena students show solidarity with victims of school shootings

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Students demonstrate on Main Street

Scores of St. Helena High School students spent 17 minutes demonstrating and showing their solidarity with the victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Toward the end of the demonstration, they lined Highway 29 in front of Vintage Hall.

Students at St. Helena High School and Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School participated in a nationwide school walkout Wednesday morning to show solidarity with victims of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Carrying signs bearing the names of shooting victims and messages like “Stand in Solidarity,” scores of high school students gathered under the flag in Rotary Field before heading out to the sidewalk along Highway 29. They chanted “Enough is enough” as passing drivers honked horns to signal their support.

The school’s Students For Change club organized Wednesday’s demonstration, promoted it on social media, and worked with their faculty advisor, Kathleen Zipp.

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Students demonstrate

St. Helena High School students Harper McClain, left, and Leanah Paul hold signs as part of a Wednesday morning demonstration. They are both freshmen and members of the school's new Students for Change club.

“Our goal is mainly to get our voices heard right now,” said freshman Sydney Becker, the club’s founder. “We’re a very small club and we just began, so we really want to show our community that we matter and that all of our opinions matter.”

“We’re not necessarily going for gun control or against gun control,” said freshman Ellie Aslanian. “We’re just trying to show the students of Parkland and other school shootings that we’re with them.”

The school extended the regular morning break by a few minutes to accommodate the demonstration. Students were free to participate or stay behind in study hall.

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Students sign poster

At Wednesday morning's demonstration, St. Helena students sign a poster, sending their love to the high school in Parkland, Florida, the site of a mass killing on Feb. 14, where a gunman killed 17 people. The poster will be sent to the school.

“The students want to encourage peaceful discussion and action by focusing the attention of the day on the victims in Florida,” high school Principal Ben Scinto told parents this weekend. “We appreciate our students engaging school personnel in constructive conversation on issues that affect us locally and abroad.”

The Students For Change club grew out of a research project in which freshmen identified issues around the world that they considered unjust, inequitable or immoral – among them gun control and school violence.

“We started realizing all of the issues going on in today’s world, especially with the Florida shooting,” said freshman Maleka Anderson. “We really wanted to make a change in this world, and we thought we could start by making a new club at school and getting people involved.”

Zipp said she’s happy to provide faculty support for the club.

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Second Amendment supporters

St. Helena High School freshmen Conor Papina, Luke Reynolds and Mike Henry staged a counter-demonstration supporting the Second Amendment on Wednesday morning in front of Vintage Hall.

“Anybody who has any doubts about the future of our country can look to these individuals and see that there is hope and we can change things,” Zipp said.

Students also signed a poster that will be sent to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed on Feb. 14.

During the walkout, a small handful of students held a counter-demonstration, holding signs supporting the Second Amendment and opposing gun control.

“The walkouts are for more gun control laws,” said freshman Mike Henry, who was passing out copies of the Second Amendment. “But we believe that gun control is not the answer, and we need to have less gun laws because the bad guys aren’t going to pay attention to any gun laws. All gun laws are doing is making it harder for the good guys to get guns.”

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.