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Long IslandEducation

Long Island students take a stand, join nationwide Parkland events

Scenes from around Long Island as students participated in events honoring the victims of the Parkland shooting or protested gun violence.

South Side High School students participate in the

South Side High School students participate in the nationwide school walkout Wednesday in Rockville Centre. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Thousands of students on Long Island joined their peers nationwide in walking out of their school buildings or participating in other demonstrations to protest gun violence or memorialize the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

Here are scenes from some of those events:

East Setauket

About 150 students defied the administration of the Three Village school district and marched out of Ward Melville High School holding signs and chanting against gun violence and for more regulation of deadly weapons.

They went past security guards posted at the school entrance and chanted “Enough is enough!”

They read aloud the names of the 17 victims killed in Parkland, Florida, and then broke into a loud chant: “Am I next?”

“We, the students of Ward Melville High School, along with hundreds of thousands of students across the nation, have had enough,” Bennett Owens, 18, a senior protest organizer, told the crowd. “We’ve had enough of Congress’ inaction while . . . kids are slaughtered each year.”

The students held signs directed at the politicians whom they vowed to hold accountable as soon as they can become voters, with messages such as “Gun Reform Now” and “How many kids have to die before we make a change?”

Across the street, about a dozen area residents lent their backing, waving signs and chanting, “We support the kids!”

Among those supporters was Osbert Orduna, 43, a district resident who said he is an Iraq War veteran who served with the Marines Corps. He said he believes that the students’ message transcends politics and even Second Amendment issues. He said he has handled military assault rifles and that there’s very little difference between those he used during the war and those available to gun enthusiasts today.

“I’m here in support of the youth,” Orduna said. “We are completely against weapons of war being carried under the guise of hunting rifles.”

— Víctor Manuel Ramos

Albertson

It wasn’t hard for students at the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson to find out what their peers were planning or even organize their own walkout, said freshman Glorianna Jackson, 14, of Bellmore.

“We all have social media and everyone had heard about it,” Jackson said.

The big question mark that hung over their plans was how much support they could expect from school officials. The Viscardi school serves 170 students with physical disabilities and some needed assistance to participate.

At some schools, students faced backlash as they proposed similar walkout plans. But Jackson said the Viscardi community was ready to rally for the Parkland victims and for policies to end school violence. Administrators gave the students the answer they were hoping for: “We’re with you.”

“It was important that we teach our children to be empowered and independent thinkers,” said head of school Angelo Zegarelli.

On Wednesday, about 50 middle and high school students lined up in their wheelchairs and exited the building, along with school staff, and held a 17-minute moment of silence. Student leaders lined up at the front of the crowd to symbolize the Parkland victims.

Mahnoor Mujahid, 14, and Nidhi Majumder, 14, both freshman from Richmond Hill, Queens, said they were proud their peers were coming together.

“Students should really try their best to make a difference in the world,” Mujahid said.

— Laura Blasey

Rockville Centre

Hundreds of students silently filed out of classrooms and assembled around the track at South Side High School in Rockville Centre beginning at 9:55 a.m.

Seventeen of their peers stood at the center of the school’s football field, each holding a photo of one of the victims of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Every minute, a victim’s name and age was announced — nothing else was said.

After 17 minutes, the students quietly vacated the field and returned to their classes.

Afterward, in the school’s hallway, Katie Ralph teared up. The South Side senior said she wasn’t sure how many of her classmates would stand with her and was moved to see so many people.

“I feel very connected to the Parkland victims because they are our age,” said Ralph, 17. “When we saw the student movement, we wanted to continue that, we wanted to reinforce it. There are a thousand students in the school and we wanted to get a thousand more in that movement.”

As Superintendent William Johnson watched his students return to their classes, he remarked on their strength.

“I grew up in a time when the youth of America changed the course of history, and I’m beginning to see in the generation of kids who are in our schools right now the sense that they have that very same power,” Johnson said. “I do believe that they, in assembling with one another, are going to do just that.”

— Rachel Uda 

Bridgehampton

There were no calls for stricter gun laws at the Bridgehampton School walkout, which was intended as a memorial to those who lost their lives or were wounded in the Parkland shooting.

“This wasn’t about gun control or political stances. It was more about being thankful for being here,” principal Mike Miller said after the 45-minute event.

About 250 seventh- through 12-grade students from Bridgehampton School and the nearby Hayground School marched onto an icy tennis court as Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” played over the loudspeakers. Participants withstood frigid temperatures as students and teachers read statements honoring those who lost their lives, as well as those wounded in the shooting.

Officials said they felt it was important to recognize all those impacted by the shooting, not just those who died.

“The trauma of such a horrific event doesn’t stop with the deceased,” said English teacher Thomas House, who has family, including a teenage nephew, living in the community just outside Parkland.

Sophomore Elijah White and his father, Ron, the school’s varsity boys basketball coach, read in honor of Aaron Feis, a football coach who died shielding students during the shooting.

“It’s good to honor someone that had to put themselves on the line,” said Elijah, a football and basketball player at the school. “I felt honored.”

A tree will be planted on the Bridgehampton campus in honor of those who died in the shooting.

— Vera Chinese

Cedarhurst

The walkout for 17-year-old Lawrence High School senior Yashmeyk Williamson wasn’t about gun control, it was about spreading a positive message and showing support for Parkland students.

“We didn’t want it to be something angry. . . . It was just to really talk about it,” said Williamson, treasurer of the student government, who helped organized the school’s event. “It’s a really serious event that we should all like talk about and embrace, not in a bad way, but a good way, and really learn from it.”

She was glad her school allowed and even encouraged the event, in which about 1,000 students took to the track outside the school.

“I think that we have a voice,” she said. “We should use it too. . . . It was seniors that got hurt and we’re seniors, we’re high schoolers and this could happen to anyone — and we don’t want it to happen to anyone.”

— Keshia Clukey

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