Nearly 500 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) students and teachers marched from their school to the football field in spitting rain and cold on Friday afternoon to stand in solidarity with Parkland, Fla., students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are reeling from the mass murder of 17 of their classmates last week.
The long line of Vineyarders marched and gathered on the 35-yard line to hear juniors Mackenzie Condon, junior class vice president, and Owen Engler, junior class president, speak to the moment. Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) and State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth) also made a spontaneous appearance to end their visit to the Island.
After a moment of silence to remember those who were killed in the Stoneman Douglas shooting, Engler and Condon addressed their peers. “We never want this to happen again anywhere,” Condon told her classmates. She and Engler had organized the event by themselves in a quick response to the Florida shooting. They called the media and worked out march logistics with school officials. Their brief remarks echoed the resolve of a youth movement which is staging high school walkouts around the country.
“Thank you, all of you, and our teachers for coming out here today. We are going to hold these politicians accountable for inaction,” Engler said, adding, “I will be able to vote this year; a lot of us are.”
MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy said the walkout was organized by the kids. “Mackenzie and Owen put this together by themselves,” she said. “They checked in with their planning and logistics, but they did it themselves. I’m proud of them and the response from the MVRHS community.”
Freshmen Brandon Pires and Anthony Vilaca, videographers for “MVRHS News,” a monthly show on YouTube, were in the MVRHS cafeteria staging area early, setting up.
Both are learning how to be in high school and at the same time integrating the violence that occurs in the high school environment. “I’ve lived here all my life, and never encountered violence of any kind,” Vilaca said.
“[The country] has to learn from its mistakes in order to make a safe future for all its kids,” Pires said before the march began.
A group of parents and grandparents stood in the parking lot, applauding kids and teachers on their way to the football field. Not talking, just applauding.
The Times asked Marilyn Bergeron of West Tisbury, standing with the knot of adults, whether she ever expected to attend an event like Friday’s walkout. “No, it’s a new world now. I think these kids will handle it,” she said. “They are the next generation, and the next generation of voters.”