Maggie Giles and Gaia D’Anna, like so many other young people around the country, were horrified by the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. But the Huntington High School seniors were also inspired by the student activism that has stemmed from the tragedy.
“Students are the ones taking charge and making change,” said Giles, 18.
On Monday, their group, Students Promoting Inclusive Civic Engagement, held a forum to discuss mass shootings and school security. More than 100 people, including students, parents and community members, attended the meeting at the Huntington Public Library, Giles said.
“A lot of people were saying they don’t feel safe in school anymore and don’t know what to do about it,” said D’Anna, 17. “It was what everyone was thinking about.”
Giles and D’Anna created SPICE in November as a way to get their peers involved in local elections. Each month the student-run group holds a forum to discuss issues, including on immigration and the environment.
They had originally planned to discuss workplace discrimination at Monday’s meeting, but changed the topic after 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed.
The discussion ranged from arming teachers to school lockdown procedures and mental health, with students falling on both sides of the gun control issue.
“The greatest take-away is that it broke the ice and got people talking,” Giles said.
In school the next day, Giles’ social studies teacher asked her to brief her classmates on the forum, and the class spent the rest of the period talking about gun control.
Giles and D’Anna are also helping organize Long Island’s March For Our Lives at Heckscher Park in Huntington on March 24. Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School first planned the Washington march to demand gun control legislation, and similar demonstrations will be held across the country that day.
“People tend to always brush teenagers aside because they think we’re apathetic, we don’t care,” D’Anna said. “But we showed everyone in the room we do know what’s going on and we’re willing to do something about it.”