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Jr NAA Leads Newtown's Students In Call For Change



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Members of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance (Jr NAA) had green and white signs prepared for March 14, the day when the Women's March Youth Empower group called for National School Walkout events against gun violence.More information on the rally is available here.Coverage of the Jr NAA Wednesday evening rally will be included in the March 16 print edition of The Newtown Bee, and online at newtownbee.com.

On one side the Jr NAA signs read "End Gun Violence." On the other side, the Jr NAA logo was printed with the words "#HonorWithAction" below it. Students also had handwritten signs that shared messages like "#NeverAgain" and "#Enough. #Action. Kids for change!"

The walkout was held exactly one month after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and members of the Jr NAA shared that they want students in Parkland to know Newtown students support them.

NHS students were given the choice to participate in the walkout. Students could choose to take part, gather for personal learning time in the cafeteria or library, or go to the school's gymnasium to sign a banner that will be shared with students in Parkland.

According to Jr NAA Co-Chairs NHS junior Jackson Mittleman and NHS junior Tommy Murray, the banner will be brought to Washington, DC, on March 24 for the March For Our Lives. Jackson said they plan to deliver the banner personally to Parkland students.

Just after 10 am, NHS students who chose to take part in the school's walkout exited the main lobby to the building's front parking lot. Students filled in space between parked cars while holding signs high and chanting, at times, "We want change," as shared in a live video broadcast on the Jr NAA's Facebook page.

Roughly 20 Jr NAA students organized the walkout at NHS. According to NHS senior and Jr NAA member Julia DiMartino, the group wanted to project a unified message that change is needed. Julia said Newtown students know what it is like to experience tragedy and they want the Parkland students to know they are supported.

Jr NAA member and NHS senior Hana Rosenthal said she hopes the NHS walkout helps prove "that our generation has one united voice."

Standing near Hana, NHS senior and Jr NAA member Shannon Cheh added, "Our generation is not going to back down any time soon, and we will not stop until change gets to the Congress floor."

Jackson said elected officials should know that if change is not supported, then today's students will vote them out in 2018 and 2020.

Rory Edwards, a fellow senior and Jr NAA member, said he hopes the NHS walkout shares the message that the students are frustrated over what has been happening with gun violence.

According to participant reports, a majority of students walked out of NHS for the event.

Dr Lorrie Rodrigue, who will officially be superintendent of schools in Newtown on March 19, shared on Twitter that the Jr NAA students "led a well-orchestrated demonstration to support changes in legislation to make schools safer."

After the walkout, Dr Rodrigue said she hopes the students learned that if they truly believe in something they should learn about the topic and take a stance if they believe they can make a positive change in the world. She said it was courageous for students to stand up and try to make a difference after another tragedy.

Across town, Newtown Middle School students were given the choice to attend a learning lab period or gather in the school's cafeteria to sign paper banners. Following the event, Principal Thomas Einhorn said he is proud of the respect his students showed each other, regardless of what other students chose to do.

"I hope they learned we all have a right to express our opinion, but, more importantly, we have a duty to respect the choices others make."

Mr Einhorn said NMS tried to be respectful of community wishes for the day.

As Dr Rodrigue told the Board of Education at its meeting on March 6, only NMS and NHS recognized the walkout for the day.

Jr NAA has also organized a rally in front of the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), 11 Mile Hill Road, Wednesday, March 14, from 6:30 to 8 pm, for  students, teachers, parents, and other adults.

A sign held during the March 14 walkout at NHS reads, "Newtown stands with Parkland. #NeverAgain." (Tom Kuroski photo)
NHS students hold signs high while participating in the March 14 walkout. (Tom Kuroski photo)
Students hold signs and a banner during the NHS walkout on March 14. (Janice Gabriel photo)
NHS students filled in space in the school's parking lot during the March 14 walkout. (Nathalie de Brantes photo)
NHS students gather in the school's parking lot during the March 14 walkout. (Janice Gabriel photo)
Jr NAA members gather for a photo in the main lobby at NHS on March 14, just after the day's planned walkout.
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