CLINTON — About 40 students walked out of Clinton High School for 17 minutes in solidarity with schools around the nation Wednesday to commemorate the 17 lives lost during a Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Next weekend, Clinton residents will take it one step farther when they join more than 739 communities nationwide for the March for Our Lives, which is a reaction to the shooting at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Clinton's March for Our Lives will be from 4 to 6 p.m. March 24 and will begin at the Riverview Bandshell. It will be a peaceful approach to promoting children's safety in schools, with the focus on kids, said Shirley Darsidan, an organizer of the local event. Five students from Clinton High School and one from Clinton Community College will speak to share their concerns and opinions on what happens in their facilities.
"Parkland is close in numbers to Clinton," Darsidan said. "We should relate to this very easily. A town the size of ours had this happen at their high school."
State legislators, the Clinton City Council and the community are invited to stand in unison as the march supports safety in schools.
"Listening to some of these kids, they are wise beyond their years. Tragedy has made them strong," Darsidan said. "They are angry, they do have a right to be angry. That anger that comes out is pretty normal after a drastic event in their lives."
The six student speakers — encouraged to speak "passionately" about what they feel and their fears — will lead the march along the riverfront. The group says its top priority is to save lives and to demand that lives and safety become a priority by ending gun violence in communities and schools.
Clinton's march organizers have applied for a grant, which is given out by a national gun-safety activist group that will disperse $2.5 million to 500 marches for operational and resource expenses. Clinton has not yet been notified of whether it has been awarded the $5,000, but Darsidan said the group already has paid out of pocket for many of the needs.
"Any extra (funding) will go for kids," she said. "(The money) will go toward work with youth to see what can better be done to protect our schools."
One belief is that teachers should not have to concern themselves with defense against an active shooter, because they instead should be educating students and those who need extra help.
"We have to protect them, and I am not sure more guns is the way we go about it," she added.
Bev Hermann, another organizer for Clinton's March for Our Lives, extended an invitation to the community at Tuesday's Clinton City Council meeting. She quoted lyrics from "Shine," a song written by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas: "Together we will shine a light, we can hug a little tighter, we can love a little more, laugh a little harder, we can stand up and roar. If we all come together it will be all right."
The two organizers believe that early intervention is one approach to help end gun violence in schools.
"Share an encouraging touch or kind word," Hermann said.