Broward College students join national walkout supporting Stoneman Douglas
Tragedy hit close to home as 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) high school in Parkland on Feb. 14. The community of Broward County and all of South Florida mourns the victims of the terrific events that day, and at Broward College, students, faculty and staff stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors of MSD.
A series of events have taken place at BC to show support to the victims, including a walkout organized by College Academy students. Faculty and students are taking the lead in different initiatives both to demand change and mourn the lives lost.
“We have to use this horrendous tragedy for improvement,” said Genesis Alvarez, a BC dual-enrollment student from MSD.
Alvarez lost two close friends during the shooting and both her aunt and cousin were at the campus when it happened.
Carmen Schentrup, a BC dual-enrollment student, was one of the fatalities of the shooting. The Project 7 Dual Enrollment club is organizing a peaceful vigil in her name.
“We should honor her and all the kids murdered last week, because of the amazing human beings they were and because they represent our own children and their future,” said Claudia Sahagun, a professor in the Communications Department at BC in an email sent to the college.
During the national walkout on Feb. 21, College Academy students at Central marched through campus with signs demanding tougher gun control laws.
“We need to make our voices heard because 17 innocent lives were lost and the laws that allowed that to happen need to change. Mentally unstable people should not be able to legally buy an AR-15 rifle,” said Nicolas Meyer, BC student and organizer of the walkout.
Meyer believes that it’s up to the people in power and in public office to work on behalf of their constituents. And he has a message for those cozying up to the gun lobby.
“I think everybody here is going to vote this upcoming November and vote them out because we need politicians that fight for our lives and not for the benefit of the NRA,” said Meyer.
Faculty joined the group as they peacefully protested.
“I hope this contributes to the conversation… I know these kids will continue to advocate for change and I think they are starting to realize how much power they have. They are going to be that group that is going to start voting,” said Dr. Kimberly Barron, English professor at BC.
South Campus also held a moment of silence on Feb. 21 to honor the lives lost, and it’s currently supporting the initiative of Diane Wolk-Rogers, a history professor at MSD who is asking students in Florida and the world to write letters of encouragement and support to the MSD students.
“Our kids are amazing and they want to get back to school and continue leaning but first they need time to just be together and begin the process of healing,” said Wolk-Rogers on a Facebook post.
Her goal is to collect 3,300 hand-written letters, one for each student.
In light of the tragedy, BC is also increasing the number of safety workshops open to all students, faculty and staff.
“While we hope never to face an event like this, one of the best precautions is to be prepared,” said BC President, J. David Armstrong, Jr.
Over the past week, BC Lieutenant John Labandera, has been hosting seminars on every campus. The seminar, called Shots Fired, provides attendees with life saving tips should they find themselves in an active shooter situation.
While there are no more workshops scheduled for the following weeks, Labandera says he is being contacted on a daily basis by student organizations and staff asking him to facilitate the seminar so it’s expected more dates will open up in the near future.
Additionally, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Henry Mack is organizing a Student Village Square called Guns & School: The Debate, where students will discuss gun-control policies and what actions should the federal government take to prevent similar tragedies from happening. The debate will be hosted through Facebook Live on March 1 at 12:30 p.m.
“We cannot allow gun violence to uproot the lives of our children and shatter the tranquility of our community,” said Armstrong.
While the community continues to mourn and begin the healing process, students all across the nation have become activists for change in the gun-control policies. And at BC, it’s no different.
“If Las Vegas didn’t change it, if Sandy Hook didn’t change it, then we will,” said Alvarez. “I think this is definitely a wake-up call. Maybe we may have been sleeping on this issue because this doesn’t happen here in Florida, especially not in Parkland, but it’s time to do something,” she added.
Photos by Sara Varela and Chris Stauffer