'It gives me a lot of hope': 1,200 Grant Park students walk out to honour school shooting victims

'It gives me a lot of hope': 1,200 Grant Park students walk out to honour school shooting victims

Hundreds of students at a Winnipeg high school got up and walked out of class Wednesday morning in response a U.S. school shooting last month, and to show young people can make change.

“I really think it’s important for youth to know that we have a voice, and they shouldn’t resist it, they should use it,” said Sam Kimelman, a 16-year-old Grade 10 student at Grant Park High School and a member of a human rights student group that organizes an annual conference.

Kimelman’s group organized the walkout, which started at 10 a.m. and lasted 17 minutes — one minute for each of the 17 victims killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.

The event happened in conjunction with mass walkouts across the U.S. Wednesday morning, organized at more than 3,000 schools worldwide for 10 a.m. in each time zone.

Kimelman said he and a peer were discussing the school shooting in their group last week when they realized it was an issue students felt passionately about. After that, they found an open call from Empower, the youth branch of the International Women’s March, for schools and workplaces to participate in the walkout.

Staff at the school supported them when they presented the idea, Kimelman said, and they also participated in the event with the support of the school division’s superintendent.

Out of the 1,300 students at the school, between 50 and 70 chose not to participate, Kimelman said.

“It just gives me a lot of hope, because within the next few years we are the adults, we are the voters,” he said.

“We are going to be making change, and I think to see that we’re already interested in making change and to see that we’re not afraid to speak up for what we believe in is really just very inspiring. It gives me a lot of hope.”

Kimelman said his group is also busy organizing the Rights Here, Rights Now human rights conference scheduled for April 17. The event will focus on reconciliation and issues such as women’s rights, mental health awareness and refugee rights.

The walkout Wednesday was also intended to show student activism matters, he said.

“We mainly just wanted to convey the message that student activism is important and students can make a change to both staff and students at this school and all over the world.”

Published at Wed, 14 Mar 2018 12:53:30 -0400