BY JESSIE CHAIET
PRINT NEWS EDITOR
Holding signs that read “Protect Kids Not Guns” and “Enough is Enough,” the Bay’s student body as well as administrators and staff walked from campus to Vista View Park on Feb. 21. The purpose of the district-approved walkout was to honor the 17 lives of those fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Senior Devon Stoloff, who organized the walkout with senior Julia Levy, said it was a unique event and a great way to garner support for Stoneman Douglas.
“We all have a voice that can travel much further and get our message picked up by many more if we do something out of the ordinary,” Stoloff said. “Having 5,000 kids walk the streets together—united— and gather around with key speakers was just the way to go about it.”
Levy said she was inspired to organize the event after seeing schools across Broward County holding walkouts.
“We were going to do a 17-minute thing to honor the lives that were lost and then we realized that a lot of kids wanted to walk out and Broward County was walking out in general, so we decided to take the initiative and create a Cypress Bay walkout,” Levy said.
After all students made their way to the soccer fields at Vista View Park, four Stoneman Douglas students spoke about their experiences and the trauma they faced on Feb. 14. One of the speakers, Stoneman Douglas senior Kali Clougherty, said it was meaningful to speak at the walkout so other students could hear a first-hand account of the shooting.
“I think it’s important to talk to other high schools and make sure that they understand the severity of what has happened and that they are pretty much in charge of our future,” Clougherty said. “It is important that my classmates and I go around to speak to people and tell them what we went through so that they can understand our experience, so they don’t have to ever experience it themselves.”
Clougherty said speaking at the event helped relieve some of her anxiety from the shooting.
“I actually have had reactions to gunshot sounds and fire alarms recently and it just makes me jump, so now I just have more anxiety because of [the shooting],” Clougherty said. “Speaking in front of schools helps calm me because I’m an actress, so I’m in front of people all of the time and it’s easy for me to talk in front of thousands of people.”
To organize the event, Levy was responsible for contacting the students from Stoneman Douglas and Stoloff was responsible for contacting news publications to cover the event. The night before the walkout, Levy and Stoloff spoke with Principal Charles Scott Neely to discuss the logistics pertaining to security and police to watch over all the students participating.
“It was stressful [to plan], especially because there was security involved and students were walking all the way to Vista [View Park],” Levy said. “I got a little stressed trying to plan out the times since it was so last minute.”
Levy and Stoloff spread the word about the event by posting on social media and texting in group chats with students. Additionally, an hour before the walkout, Levy and Mr. Neely gave an announcement about how the walkout would work.
“The talk of a walkout was already around a lot of the school and especially in bigger group chats,” Stoloff said. “The announcement, specifically, was very successful in increasing participation because students then knew that this walkout was supported among administration and teachers had to allow it without consequence.”
Levy said she was amazed by the turnout and inspired by the motivation of the Bay’s student body to help Stoneman Douglas.
“It was better than I imagined it would be; I didn’t think there would be such an outcome,” Levy said. “It was really inspirational. I think that such an impact is going to cause impacts in other schools and other counties and maybe they’ll do the same.”
Assistant Principal Marianela Estripeaut said she was proud of the Bay’s students for taking the initiative themselves to make change in gun reform and honor the students who passed away at the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
“I thought the walkout was absolutely beautiful; I was so proud of our students,” Ms. Estripeaut said. “I get choked up just thinking about how respectful they were and how they honored the students of Stoneman Douglas.”
Ms. Estripeaut said she was elated to see such a large turnout, with the majority of the student body uniting on the fields at Vista View Park.
“I was in awe; it was very impressive,” Ms. Estripeaut said. “When you were all the way out there in the field, you could look back and still see the 5,000-strong coming down.”
Clougherty said she was blown away by the support of the Bay’s students; she said she thought it was amazing to see so many students unite in support of Stoneman Douglas.
“To see them all supporting and just wanting to take part in this movement is absolutely incredible,” Clougherty said. “It just warmed my heart and made me feel like we’re not alone and that people actually care about what happened and what happened to us. I honestly had no faith in humanity before all of this and now I really realize people care.”
Stoloff said the walkout was an overall success. He said it highlighted the importance of student activism, as high school students have a strong voice and they can make change for the future of the U.S.
“I think I can speak for anyone who participated when I say that the unity and coming together of all grades, whether that be students or faculty, was a very powerful moment to see how almost all could come together and support one common thing,” Stoloff said. “We might have different views on the change needed but it wasn’t about that at all; it was about showing how we could congregate to support Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the fact that we need to see changes.”