Helen Wickett '22
Activism has no age. The constitution applies to every US citizen, specifically the first amendment. While there is no age too young to exercise your right to petition, certain things can make it difficult for young people to get involved. . For students, going to protests can be difficult when they do not have the proper resources and abilities. This includes transportation and the ability to leave school during the school day. While attending school is important, there is no better way for minors to become educated on matters of social justice than to protest. Making change in our communities and the world is not solely a job for adults. We must take advantage of living in a country where speaking your mind and fighting for what you believe to be just is encouraged. Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance that older generations allow us the opportunity to make change.
Student activism is not a new concept. In a world full of injustice, inequality, and political unrest, students have modeled what it means to be active in our communities for decades. As Gen Z, we have no problem speaking up for ourselves and often do not see our age as something that hinders us from creating change on micro and macro levels. At the age of 18, Malala Yousafzai won a nobel peace prize for her work petitioning for the right of all children to have an education. At the age of 16, Greta Thunberg organized the largest climate demonstration in history with 4 million people in 161 countries protesting beside her. When the NCS Black Student Union hosted a sit-in outside of the Cathedral in June, hundreds of students from schools around the DMV rallied in support. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, joined together to found the March for Our Lives movement, after the tragic shooting which took place at their school. These trailblazers, and many more youth just like them, have proven that everyone should recognize Gen Z as the face of modern activism.
When I was in the eighth grade, I walked out of school with four of my peers and attended the “March for Our Lives” protest in front of the capitol. I saw hundreds of students aged thirteen to eighteen sitting together, reading names of school-shooting victims, demanding gun control, and being apart of tangible change opened my eyes to how passionately our generation feels about social justice. At the protest, I was particularly captivated by signs which read messages such as “why must this be our fate; we want to graduate” and “the only guns we need are Michael B Jordan’s”. As activists, we care about one another’s futures in our own special way. Although students who leave school to protest risk getting in trouble with administration, I cannot stress how important it is for our generation to exercise our 1st amendment rights as best we can. As young people who are unable to vote, protesting is the next best thing. As the future policy makers of America, our generation attending protests as early as middle school is vital to continuing the trend of young people making changes which adults deem impossible.
No matter your age, I implore you to protest for what you believe in. It is your fundamental right to petition. Take advantage of it.
The Atlantic Monthly Group (2019) Getting Gen Z Primed to Save the World
Ayling Woodward (January 3rd, 2020) Greta Thunberg turns 17 today. Here's how she started a global climate movement in just 18 months.