At exactly 10 a.m. on Friday, April 20, 2018, students across the nation stood up and walked out of their classrooms in protest of the American government’s inaction to respond to gun violence. At Urbandale High School, students walked out at 10 a.m. and met at the football field where administration, an Urbandale police officer, and other faculty stood to supervise the event.
Urbandale’s walkout included speeches by students, biographies of the 17 victims killed in the Parkland shooting, and a moment of silence for all victims of gun violence. Topics addressed in student speeches ranged anywhere from advising students not to encourage violence in their daily lives to discussing Black Lives Matter. Whether students in the audience walked out to get out of class or because they feel strongly about the issue, students in the audience were given a plethora of information, viewpoints, and opinions on gun violence. After the Urbandale walkout, students were encouraged by the organizers to join them at the Iowa State Capitol for a rally with students from around the Des Moines area. Students could leave and take the unexcused absence or return to class.
If those students did attend the Des Moines rally, they heard Urbandale High School students Raj Oberoi and Kayla Nguyen speak their thoughts on gun violence. Oberoi and Nguyen both helped plan and run the Urbandale walkout and Des Moines rally. They are a part of a group called Iowa Students United, a group of high school students dedicated to addressing gun violence and demanding action by their representatives.
Also at the rally, were poets from Movement 515, a spoken word poetry group from Des Moines Public Schools. The message from these poets came from the Black Lives Matter
movement explaining that this conversation about gun violence must include the hundreds of black lives that have been killed by the means of guns before this movement started. Before speakers began, a choral group sang songs about the power of voices to entertain the crowd. Lastly, a forum was held with political candidates running for Iowa’s governor and for congress in Iowa’s third district. Candidates gave their opinions on the issue and explained exactly what they would do to get these students what they wanted. One candidate running for governor, Cathy Glosson, even got the students in the crowd chanting. Olivia Davison, Urbandale High School junior, attended both the Urbandale walkout as well as the rally at the capitol. “I went to the football field and originally I was planning on just participating in that and going back to school. But, I felt very empowered by the students. Going to the capitol was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” said Davison.
Something special about the rally at the capital was that the crowd consisted of students from all over the Des Moines area. Tom Bruner, a junior that attends Theodore Roosevelt High School attended the Des Moines rally. “Man, I might have skipped school to be here, but it was totally worth it to see all of my fellow peers standing up for what we believe in,” said Bruner.
Regardless of where one stands on the issue, these students should be celebrated for the work that they put into making these events happen. Anytime high school students and young people in general use their power to make something happen, it should be celebrated. Too often people forget that young people are regularly shut down when they speak up. However, this time, students everywhere said, “Enough in enough.”