Inspiring Youth, Empowering the Globe – Parkland Students

In this series of articles, we’ll be casting the spotlight upon a number of people around the world who truly are inspiring youth.

These individuals are famous for a number of different reasons, but one consistency is that, despite their relative lack of years, they have stamped their mark upon issues that matter the most to them; turning them into global icons.

We can all learn a great deal from these individuals but as young people, we should look up to them not only in admiration for their work, but to feel empowered to say, “I can be like them”.

In this, the sixth piece of the series, we shine the empowering spotlight on… the Parkland Students

Name – Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin & Cameron Kasky
Ages – 19-20
Nationality – USA
Cause for Inspiration – Advocacy for tighter gun control laws across America

February 14, 2018 began much like any normal day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Florida. Seniors and freshmen alike made their way to classes amid the Valentine’s Day buzz, with the expectation of their daily routine to play out as it always did.

However, for students like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin & Cameron Kasky, this would be a day that would change their lives forever.

Around 2:20pm, former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, returned to his old high school armed with a rifle; he activated a fire alarm and began firing indiscriminately at students and teachers, moving through floors and classrooms alike before blending into the crowd to attempt his escape.

A total of 17 innocent students and staff members were killed and a further 17 were wounded.

Cruz was arrested an hour later and has since been imprisoned, awaiting trial early next year. Sadly, this tragedy was not an isolated event for the USA, yet the reaction and response is what sets it apart; especially that of the surviving Parkland students. Enough was enough.

Instead of the usual offering of thoughts and prayers and an “ignorance is bliss” attitude often adopted by the politicians, the students spoke out in spite of prevalent survivors guilt and PTSD. 

Gonzalez, Hogg, Wind, Corin and Kasky all become central figures in the newly formed March For Our Lives movement; a collective of survivors and students from across the country who felt that fear of attack has no place in a school.

Hogg also gained renown for interviewing students whilst MSD school was still under lockdown providing a horrifying insight into the event whilst students like Gonzalez used speeches to call out the antiquated approach to gun laws in her country and began to question leading gun advocates on their beliefs around access to weapons, quoting

it should not be easier to purchase a gun than obtain a driver’s license.

Momentum began to grow and on March 24, 2018 a nationwide demonstration took place demanding change. The group waged a war against elected officials to hold them accountable for gun violence and the protests grew to include endorsements from famous figures such as George Clooney.

In total, 1.2 to 2 million people marched in support of March For Our Lives at over 880 sites across the US and around the world drawing tribute from former President Obama.

Following on from the success of the March, Parkland Students undertook a nationwide bus tour, covering 27 states in 2 months. The motivation was not only to raise awareness of the dangers associated with free access to weapons, but to raise the youth politically, to be aware that their voices could collectively ring change across America.

50,000 people were registered to help vote out politicians who prioritise access to military-style weapons over safety at school with Corin stating “it’s not about empowering people, it’s about making them realize they already have that power in them”. Kasky has similarly initiated the “Road to Change” tour intending on lobbying every congressional district in Florida to advocate for tighter gun controls.

Wind also became a founding leader of Never Again MSD. Bringing the message beyond Parkland the group is leveraging social media and the hashtags #NeverAgain and #EnoughIsEnough to raise awareness and start conversations questioning the current laws.

And so far, the message is working, Florida has increased funding for school security, established waiting periods and background checks and raised the required age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 helping move the state toward being a safer place for all.

Despite increased pressure from pro-gun lobbying groups, the Parkland Students, through March For Our Lives and Never Again MSD, continue to advocate for tighter control; to make their lives, and those of children across the country, safer and remove any fear that their school may be targeted.

Who knows how many lives their activism can save…

Inspiration In Your World…

As well as sharing the stories of these inspiring young people, this series also intends to challenge you, the reader, to think how can we take, in this case, the Parkland Students’ example into our own lives?

  • We can stand up for causes we believe in
  • Turn tragedy into opportunity, for the betterment of all
  • Appreciate that a local event can make waves across a whole nation
  • Use our voices to be heard by those in power, age doesn’t matter
  • Inspire those around you to join your cause

 To find out more about the Parkland Students, their story and how they are continuing the fight for increased gun control across America, take a look at the following:

March For Our Lives – official website for the group detailing ongoing events and campaigns

Never Again MSD – facebook page of the organisation taking the fight to policy makers

Emma Gonzalez speech – impassioned in the aftermath of the event, Emma begins to put policy makers under pressure

Also in this series:

Jacob Goodwin, UK

Currently volunteering here at Youth Legend as part of a career break, back home I used to work in Software Sales.My passion lies not only in sport, especially football and my beloved Doncaster Rovers, but also in hiking, music and craft beer