The March for Our Lives rally at the state Capitol on March 24. (Photo by Ali Hibbs)
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By OLIVIA POUST
ALBANY —The Capital District has students from all walks of life, but on Saturday, March 24, they became a united force to protest a common issue at March for Our Lives, a national student-led rally and march to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence in schools.
Whether it was sharing their voices by speaking in front of the crowd, holding up signs or even just being present in West Capitol Park, students showed their adamancy and proved that America’s youth are not too young to bring about change.
“I am proud of us young people,” said Kaelyn DiCocco, a junior at Schalmont High School. “We are the future and you are going to listen to our voices.” DiCocco helped to organize the march and was one of seven student speakers at the protest. Alongside her were Hamza Noor, a sophomore at Schalmont; Sydney Lemire, a junior at Columbia High School; Asma Bawla, a senior at Shaker High School; Shamyla Bhatti, a freshman at Albany High School; Lydia Martell, a senior at Bethlehem Central High School, and Adeline Weatherwax, a freshman at Tech Valley High School.
Students in Albany and across the nation are saying enough is enough, and they will not back down until action is taken. “Stand with me as we stop asking, ‘What will change? When will it change?’ And start saying, ‘Now. Now it will change,’” said Lemire in her speech.
Students in the crowd had equally strong opinions on the issue. Izzy Rutkey, a senior at Ballston Spa High School who helped to organize her school’s involvement in a national walkout on March 14, stated “We will be voting, we will let our voices be heard, and we will continue to fight for what we believe in.”
Multiple students mentioned that, for them, this is not a political issue, but rather a life or death issue. Bethlehem senior Greg Jusino said, “This is a matter of our lives, it’s not a policy debate. There’s a problem that needs to be fixed.”
Bawla of Shaker High made a similar point in her speech, stating, “This isn’t about what your political views are. This is about human lives.”
Although all the student speakers were from local high schools, the march was made up of students of all ages. There were children in elementary school and middle school and college students.
Marley Amico, a junior at Skidmore College, said, “It’s really important that I use the privilege and the voice I have to speak up for what I believe is important on behalf of those who don’t have the resources to do so or are not here anymore to speak.”
Jackie Gold, a senior at Bethlehem, was passing out flyers during the march for the next step in the movement. On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, students across the region will leave school after homeroom and head to West Capitol Park, where there will be speakers and protests. Gold said, “(Students) are coming together to take a stand and show everyone that this is serious and we’re not going anywhere until there’s a change.”
These are the voices of the students. They are questioning the current system of gun control, they are stating the changes they wish to see and, though many are still too young to vote, they are demonstrating leadership in this movement.
Olivia Poust is a senior in the Bethlehem High School’s Lab School.