More than 500 Chelsea High students walked out of class on Thursday, March 15, as part of the national school walk-out movement to promote more efforts towards school safety.
Armed with only a megaphone, students marched into shin-deep snow and cold temperatures to participate in the movement locally, and to draw attention to school safety.
They were supported by the Chelsea Public Schools and the Chelsea Police, who stood in solidarity with the students, who ranged in age from 13 to 18.
“P-O-W-E-R,” yelled Stephanie Rodrigues, one of the key coordinators along with Diego Estrada. “We have the power. We have a voice. We can use our power…We deserve to be heard. We deserve to be safe. We don’t deserve to stand around and wait for someone to come kill us. You could be next. Unfortunately, the 17 students in Florida were killed by a man who should not have had a gun. This is not normal. We should not stand around and wait for someone to take action for us. We can take action.”
Student Eric Lazo entertained the crowd with impromptu chants and songs on the megaphone, for which most everyone in the crowd followed.
“I came out because this can’t happen again,” said Imane Rharbi. “We can’t have students being killed and unsafe. We need gun control right now. That’s why I came out.”
Junior Angel Vargas said he and many other students are concerned that they could be next, that the fear of something at Chelsea High is real.
“It’s important for all of us to come out here,” he said. “It was terrible what happened in Florida. That was the reason I came out. We are scared.”
Students cheered loudly, hats and scarves wrapped tightly around them, and then broke into a solemn moment as Rodrigues read the names of the 17 students killed in Florida on Feb. 14.
The national walk-out day was supposed to occur on March 14, and all over the state and country students staged walk-outs to call for more gun ownership restrictions and more funding for mental health services inside and outside of school. In Chelsea, the effort had to be postponed because of the blizzard on March 13 that cancelled school for two days.
Originally, the plan called for Chelsea students to have their walk-out in the school gym to avoid having to go in the snow. However, Rodrigues said she and Estrada were approached by students who said it should go on outside.
“We were approached by some students who felt we shouldn’t be focused on comfort by going in the gym,” said Rodrigues, who described herself as just another student and a track athlete. “We agreed. We shouldn’t be comfortable when making a stand. We wanted to show we were standing up no matter what the conditions were outside.”
Outside on Thursday, students carried signs that made many different statements.
Some depicted an anti-gun message, while others called for funding to help people who are mentally ill. Some signs blasted the National Rifle Association (NRA) and others called for remembrance of the Florida students.
Most striking, however, were the hand-made signs that read, “Am I Next?”
Rodrigues said it isn’t an overreaction in Chelsea.
She said students and adults are concerned about their safety in school, and it’s something that is a bit new.
“Honestly, I feel we are all scared, even the adults,” she said. “That’s what pulled us all together. We shouldn’t let our safety in school be in question. That brought us together…One day it could be us.”
Stephany Villatoro and Masireh Ceesay were two of about 500 Chelsea High students that participated in a walk-out for school safety on Thursday, March 15. Students said they came together because they were scared that one day they could be school shooting victims.
Nancy Baguada and Mauricio Rubi march through the snow to the walk-out.
Co-Organizer Stephanie Rodrigues fires up the student crowd at the Stadium with a megaphone.
Student Erik Lazo shouted out interesting chants and songs during the walk-out to get the crowd fired up.
Imane Rharbi said there can be no more school shootings. She said now is the time for stricter gun control.
Students rally on the Stadium field in the snow.
Junior Angel Vargas signs the petition from Chelsea High.
Student organizers standing with Chelsea Police Officers. Chelsea Police and Chelsea High security provided a safe perimeter for the students during the walk-out.