The view of The Capitol and during Emma Gonzalez’s speech at the March for Our Lives. (image credit: Ryan Evaul)

Gun violence and school safety have become two issues in current American society. The March for Our Lives protest provided an inter-generational opportunity for SNHU students, SNHU faculty and Americans of all ages, to voice their opinions and concerns on the two issues listed previously.

During this past weekend, 53 members of the SNHU community departed campus for Washington D.C. Students were joined by six faculty and staff members serving as chaperones for the trip. While some trip attendees may have felt the bus ride was at times long and not the most comfortable, nearly every attendee appeared to display a passion for the common cause.

SNHU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) organized the weekend trip and gave students an opportunity to be active citizens for issues they believe in.

The March For Our Lives protest this weekend was organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people lost their lives on February 14. It has been reported by a variety of news organizations that this protest was one of the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War.

Aisha Khiyaty, (’21) shared some thoughts about her experience at the march. “I think it was really awesome,” Khiyaty said. “Hearing kids how they’ve been impacted by gun violence was powerful.”

Patty Lynott, university college president, was one of the chaperones on the trip and provided some insight on her experience with the march.

“In 50 years, this could represent a turning moment. The march wasn’t a negative rant session, it was instead a lot of positive people coming together saying change needs to happen. It was probably about seven hours there and seven hours back, but I’d go on this trip again in a heartbeat.”

After a short night at the Best Western Hotel in Elkridge, Maryland, attendees left the hotel in the morning and arrived at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. at 11 a.m. Once the bus was parked, students and faculty had the choice of walking 40 minutes to the main area of the protest or to take the subway which was quicker by being only a 12-minute ride, but most likely more crowded than the streets. While the walk may sound long to some people, organizers of the protest and residents of D.C. pointed the way to the protest.

Once students and faculty made their own way towards the protest, the opportunity to become a part of something bigger than oneself was presented.

CBS News reported on the total amount of participants in the Washington D.C. March.

“More than 200,000 people attended the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington D.C. on Saturday,” according to Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc (DDIS). “The organizers put the total number of attendees at closer to 800,000. In addition to the massive march in Washington, an estimated 800 other marches were held across the country, including one in Parkland, Florida.”

Besides members of the SNHU community that went on the trip, many attendees at the march agreed the Parkland students, as well as surprise guest Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jr’s 9-year old granddaughter, gave moving speeches.

One student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, who happened to gather a considerable amount of attention, was Emma González, a high school senior. To a large degree, her speech was deemed emotionally moving by many for her moment of silence which lasted for more than four minutes, after reading the names of the murdered victims of the Parkland shooting.

“Six minutes and 20 seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured and everyone in the Douglas community was altered,” González stated.

Yolanda Renee King echoed her own sentiments while also using the legacy of her grandfather for inspiration. “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.”

Even though the main stage was largely blocked by a sea of protestors, organizers of the march set up projector screens on various streets with loudspeakers, so that way even if people didn’t make it to the main stage they would still be a part of the protest while seeing and hearing speakers live.

Besides the speakers, performances by Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Common, Vic Mensa, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Andra Day, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ben Platt also occurred.

While not many would say relying on a portable toilet for bathroom needs is ideal, most felt it was a small price to pay to become part of something greater.

The trip from SNHU to D.C. and D.C. and back might’ve seemed like it flew by, but nearly everyone from the SNHU community who attended the trip agreed the message taught by the Parkland survivors as well as the overall experience would stick with them for a lifetime.

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