"This minute is for Alex Schachter, this minute is for Alex Schachter," Frankie called out on the bullhorn. Silence fell upon Middle School students who were standing shoulder to shoulder on 16th Street on Wednesday morning. Members of the Ally Group dedicated each passing minute of silence, 17 in all, to one of the victims of last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. As they honored the victims and held signs promoting safe schools, Lowell Middle School students, faculty, and staff stood in solidarity with students and educators across the country participating in the National School Walkout.
Ally Group Takes the Lead Four weeks ago members of the Ally Group gathered during lunch with heavy hearts. The tight-knit group of 8th grade girls discussed how they heard the news of the shooting and what they had learned over the weekend as they processed the event. Discussing current events like these is not new for the Ally Group, whose mission is to raise awareness around critical social issues and create opportunities for students to take action. However, this event hit home for the 8th graders who will be attending high school next year. "It makes you worry a lot," said Frankie. "It happened on a regular Thursday."
Once the group learned of the National School Walkout, they felt compelled to participate. The Ally Group agreed among themselves to organize a similar, smaller action for Middle School students to voice their concerns about gun violence in schools. With support from their group’s facilitator, Michelle Belton, they galvanized the student body. Lillian said she was glad that Lowell was participating. "It's important to talk about these things even if it’s uncomfortable or sad," she said.
Students and Teachers Reflect During the rally on 16th Street, students held handmade signs, chanted, and engaged with passersby. The students were energized by drivers who honked to show their support. They were also thoughtful and focused: "School is an environment where you should be safe," said Isaiah standing with Ollie and Ben. "No one should be scared at school."
"For us, as adults, it's important to give space for student voice. This is their world too," Michelle commented. Following the 17 minutes of silence, Director of Middle School Kavan Yee wrapped up the event with some final words to crystallize the experience for the students. "Lowell is so proud of you," Kavan ended his comments. "Congratulations." Applause broke out from faculty, staff, and students.
As students returned to classes, a flurry of excitement filled the air. Faculty and staff shared what they saw emerge from the students during the protest. Several students recognized the ripple effect their act had on others. Middle School Counselor Malikkah Rollins recounted a conversation with a student in her Delta group this way: "Julie repeatedly said, ‘Think of all the people driving past us that will now have conversations about our protest with their families, friends, and people at work.’”
Lowell School is a private PK-8th grade school located in NW Washington, DC. At Lowell students gain the knowledge, skills, and social-emotional literacy to be the bold leaders and creative problem solvers our world needs.