By Jodie Bomze and Travis Boren
A few students gathered at 10 a.m. in the courtyard at the Centennial Campus for the #Enough! National School Walkout on March 14.
The activists who coordinated the walkout nationally intended for the walkout to happen in each time zone at 10 a.m. for seventeen minutes: one minute for each person who lost their life at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The stated intent by the EMPOWER arm of the Women’s March organization, is to encourage the United States Congress to “pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”
Alex Pedroza and Savannah Harkins, two PPCC culinary students, were among those gathering.
“I don’t like guns,” said Harkins.
“I don’t think anyone who [walked out] today does,” said Pedroza.
Pedroza, an Area Vocational Program student, said she was eager to participate in the walkout – that it was an important to show her dedication to this cause.
Harkins agreed, emphasizing her intent to represent the seventeen victims of the Parkland shooting.
Both Harkins and Pedroza said they thought walking out for the entire day would have been inappropriate, reaffirming the symbolism of the 17-minute planned duration of the walkout.
The next group stood in a circle, four of them comfortable enough to speak up about why the walkout was so important for them. Hannah Biby stressed how important it was to honor the kids who lost their lives. Mariah Hayes stressed that there is no reason people should be scared to come to school.
“This should end,” said Hayes.
Karen Kovaly and Noel Dolan of the Marketing Department were among the staff and faculty who participated in the walkout.
“We may not feel capable of making change but at least we are showing compassion,” said Kovaly.
“We’re still thinking about it even if it’s not in the news,” Dolan said.
No police were present at the walkout, but Mark Johnson made himself available to The Paper for comment.
“I respect their right to participate in the walkout,” Johnson said.
He wasn’t concerned with the gathering getting out of control or violent, although he would take appropriate action if it did.
“We are all adults. I would expect adult behavior,” Johnson said.
While the walkout was a major phenomenon at high schools, locally and nationally, colleges seemed to have few participants. At PPCC, most of the Centennial campus operated as if nothing was going on. There was a noticeable absence of student participation observed at both Rampart and the Downtown campuses.
Sarah Patterson was waiting for someone, sitting alone at the second floor rotunda, unaware that a walkout even happened. She said she would have participated if she was aware of the walkout’s plans.
Patterson has aspirations in education, and it is important to her that students are not afraid at school.
“It’s not okay that kids have to be afraid of getting shot,” said Patterson.
Patterson believes it is important to make a stand, regardless of whether or not the stand is for an audience.
Dylan Spencer and Ellie Velasquez were surprised there was a walkout.
Spencer said he wanted to participate and believes making a cause visible is important for change to happen. Spencer was clear that it is important for every tragedy to be memorialized.
Velasquez understands the feelings of personal loss the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are experiencing. She believes it is important to remember the tragedy but that eliciting a change in policy was more important.
“It doesn’t matter to me unless something does change,” said Velasquez.
Velasquez said her time in Germany has made her unfamiliar with the process of gun ownership in the United States, but she believes that there should be restrictions on who can own a gun, acquiescing that a lot of people already have guns.
Velasquez also added that she finds it scary that concealed carry is permitted on public colleges and universities in Colorado but believes that schools are no more dangerous than anywhere else in the country.
In contrast, student Rosalinda Van Dyke was aware students of Colorado’s concealed carry laws on college campuses but thinks anyone who carries a gun in public should receive the same training police officers receive on handling the weapon as a minimum.
“If you want to have a gun you should keep it in your own home,” said Van Dyke.
Van Dyke was also aware of the walkout but felt that the walkout targeted high school students more than college students and did not participate herself.
Student Jolene Lally was unware of the walkout but stated she would not have participated anyway because she does not feel inclined to protest. Lally does not believe new restrictions on gun ownership will impact safety.
“The guns are already out there, and there is nothing we are going to be able to do about that,” said Lally.
Lally believes schools should have the same level of security as a court house, with checkpoints at the entrances, and wishes idle military service members stood sentry over schools.
Student Kevin Kosewicz said people are better served staying in class, arguing that the best way to fix the problem, and to honor those who lost their lives, is to get an education and create change from within the system.
“It’s just a complex problem, and you will need a complex solution,” said Kosewicz.
Kosewicz said he doubts the survivors of the shooting will see change in their lifetime because the process is slow but remains optimistic that the system can be improved.