I’m The One Who Started National School Walkout — But I Wish I Didn’t Have To

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

I never saw being an activist as an option. It wasn't a dream of mine. I wanted to be a musican, a journalist, a fashion designer, a director, a playwright, some sort of artist. I wanted to express. But after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, I felt numb. My time in high school had already overlapped with the Pulse and Las Vegas massacres.

I thought: Why do I feel numb to this? And I realized I had become desensitized to gun violence, like so many others in our country. Knowing this moved me to act — and, suddenly, all of those things I once saw in my future being went out the window. It was time for change.

We aren't going away. This epidemic must end.

On Feb. 14, the day of the Parkland massacre, I created a Change.org petition for a #NationalSchoolWalkout. By the next morning, I had a full-blown movement on my hands — over 250,000 people had signed my petition. I launched a Twitter, then a website, and after that official NSW Chapters. All of it was a whirlwind. It still is.

I am devastated that a generation this young had to grow up so quickly to address these issues. We had to reach a celebrity-like status to be noticed, which speaks to one problem in American society.

We are not the first young people to be at the forefront of social change, and we are not the first anti-gun violence collective — but we should not have had to wait for tragedy to strike before we were given a platform.

We will no longer wait for things to change.

We will demand change.

Now, we're building a national movement to harness the raw energy of a generation. The National School Walkout is the first step of a forward-looking mobilization that has a strategy and a plan for action. We aren't going away. This epidemic must end. We will not stay quiet until our demands are met.

When we walk out on Friday, we're walking out for our futures.

We will succeed because our generation, often referred to as Gen Z, is diverse and compassionate. We grew up with the internet, and it gave us the tools to share our stories. Thanks to social media, we haven't just heard the stories of our own community — we've heard the stories of communities around the country and around the world. Our field of empathy has widened. We all come from different backgrounds, but against gun violence we are unified. We are fighting for a common goal.

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When we walk out on Friday, we're walking out for our futures. We’re walking out in memory of every single young person who has been killed by gun violence since Columbine, whether in a school shooting or another kind. We are walking out for the young people whose stories did not make the headlines. We are walking out to remember the 46 kids or teens who are shot every single day in this country.

We are walking out for every single one.

This movement is the blossoming of our generation. It is our spring awakening. It is just the beginning. And, for me, my life isn't going the way I expected — but i'm learning that I am expressing myself, just in way I never knew.