Pittsburgh students inspired to take action

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, young people from all across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. for the “March for our Lives”.  It’s in response to the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida and is part of the ongoing effort by the students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School who have already helped get gun laws in Florida changed when no one before them could do it.

Now, they’re inspiring students across the country to take action too, including right here in Western Pennsylvania.  After the Parkland shooting, Flynn Begor, a junior at Mount Lebanon High School, created a new student group called “Students for Change”.  “It kind of sunk in that this is the first time in a while it’s my age,” she said of the Parkland shooting victims. “Someone in my grade who goes to a school just like mine,” she added.

Begor and her fellow group members at Mt. Lebanon High School are organizing events to advocate for safer schools. Casey Gannon said, “Parkland is a similar community to Mount Lebanon.  Kids feel so safe, but it kind of puts the thought in your mind, ‘it could be us next.'”  Asked whether they feel safe at school, senior Claire Coyne said, “I can’ t say I do feel safe.  It’s scary to go out and be anywhere where there’s a lot of people because you never know what’s gonna happen.”

Within days of the Parkland shooting, Begor spoke on the phone with David Hogue, a Parkland student leading the movement. The “Students for Change” have now organized a school walkout at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 20,  which is 19 year anniversary of the Columbine High School Shooting. That same day from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., they’re holding their own “March on Washington” – Washington Road in Mount Lebanon, that is. It’s a community-wide event to encourage everyone to make their voices heard.

The students here aren’t making specific proposals. They say right now, they just want leaders and legislators to do something.  “People talk about gun regulations, talk about the mental health point of view,” Begor said,  “but we haven’t done anything.  We don’t know what works.  People shoot down ideas before trying them. We don’t know what works, so I just want something.”

These students aren’t letting age stop them. “We already have student government; we talk about these issues,” Begor said.  “We learn about it, but we need to do it.  We can’t vote but we can be activists.”