By Daphne Nydam
On March 14th, the school participated in its first ever student walkout in support of the Parkland Survivors. All over the country, exactly one month after the Parkland shooting, students walked out in protest of gun violence and in support of school safety. The walkout started at 10 am and students at Mendham left classes and went to the auditorium for speeches. The walkout lasted for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 victims in the Parkland shooting. Because the walkout was student-led, Mendham also had student leaders: Isabella Bhimani, Sarah Kane, Jennifer Melhig, and Lia Mund.
The walkout started with a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting and then each of the student leaders made speeches and read poems about the shooting. As I looked around the room I could see the support and seriousness of the cause. Many students came to the walkout not just to skip class, but to support change in our country and change in our schools. Each of the speakers delivered a chilling speech on their experiences and what to do in the future. Senior speaker Jennifer Melhig had a very personal connection to the day because one of her friends was a victim of the shooting. When asked why she was inspired to talk at the walk out she said, “Most people didn’t know that I had a friend who got killed and I felt obligated to speak on her behalf because she can no longer share her story or live the life she planned.” Jennifer hopes that students “realize that this is about our lives and that we can do way more than adults think we can.”
Other students were fed up with the situation and took that opportunity to speak up. Senior Lia Mund said that she was “fed up after seeing all of the tragedies and looking at all of the shootings that have occurred has made me more and more upset over the years. After seeing the students at Parkland finally speak up, I found my own voice and decided to join the movement and finally speak my mind on the matter. I was so proud to be apart of such a great movement and I wanted to inspire others to speak up for what they believed in as well”.
One of the big controversies surrounding the event was that at Mendham students did not technically walk out. Leader Sarah Kane said, “I know a lot of students were displeased by our cooperation with the school administration in the walkout, particularly with the fact that we stayed inside. I would like to remind them that the walkout was not a protest again the school or its policies. We were not rebelling for rebellion’s sake, and the administration was not our enemy. The choices we made were intended solely to keep students safe and to make the walkout run as efficiently as possible.They were incredibly supportive, and I truly believe that the administration’s involvement improved the walkout rather than weakened it.” Because the students communicated well with the administration there were no educational or disciplinary penalties placed on any student that wanted to participate.
Overall, the walkout was a positive experience that was meant to insight change and foster a conversation about what needs to happen in the future to prevent further incidents. Leader Isabella Bhimani wanted to make sure that the walkout was effective no matter what the students believe, “ Whether or not they all really support the cause I hope that they keep the conversation going and know that if we keep fighting we have the power to make change happen. With that, I hope that students continue to fight and not give up regardless of what anyone else tells them.”