April 04, 2018

They will be heard

Students and school leaders join forces against gun violence
by Tracy Sweet

The nationwide movement to eradicate gun violence has given rise to voices on Andover Hill. Students took part in Boston’s March for Our Lives rally on March 24, packing busses with their handmade signs, demanding attention and meaningful action.

Photo courtesy of Clarisa Merkatz ’19

Clarisa Merkatz ’19 and Emily Ndiokho ’18 helped organize the nearly 200 Andover students who joined an estimated 100,000 in the two and half mile walk that ended with speeches and performances on Boston Common. The demonstrations were among hundreds held throughout the country weeks after 17 people were killed by gun fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Carrying a sign that said “Our words are our bullets,” Merkatz described the march as inspirational democracy in action. 

“Although people marching kept a solemn place in their hearts to remember the victims of gun violence,” she said, “the atmosphere in Boston was simultaneously electric with positive energy that this student-led movement really can and will incite change.”   

The Parkland tragedy also prompted 176 heads of independent schools in Massachusetts—John Palfrey among them—to sign a letter seeking change at the highest level. It took up a full page in the Boston Globe, stating, in part: “We are all inspired by the students who have raised their voices to demand change. We give our voices to this call for action. We call upon all elected representatives—each member of Congress, the President, and all others in positions of power at the governmental and private-sector level—to take action in making schools less vulnerable to violence, including sensible regulation of firearms.”

Photo courtesy of The Phillipian/K.AALTO

Palfrey also joined fellow heads of the Eight Schools Association to pen another letter seeking reform, backing student activism and supporting Parkland Fla., families. “Our students come from every state in this nation and from around the world to receive the very best care and education,” they wrote. “We are moved to take action out of responsibility for the thousands of children in our care and out of compassion for children throughout this country. Each day of inaction chips away at every teacher’s right to deliver and every student’s right to receive an education free from fear and violence.”

Andover students returned from the Boston march energized and eager to do more. With the support of Dean of Students Jenny Elliott, Merkatz has established an Andover chapter of #NeverAgain, a student-led organization that advocates for tighter gun control laws and further measures to prevent gun violence. She said the group will be a forum for the exchange of ideas and serve as a rallying point for action that starts on campus and spreads more broadly.

Andover students at the Boston March for our Lives. Photo courtesy of Clarisa Merkatz ’19.
Categories: Campus Life, Leadership

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