(WWLP) – Local students joined students around the country Wednesday morning as they walked out of their schools in protest of gun violence.
The nationwide walkout was planned on the one month anniversary of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and teachers were killed.
Here’s a look at school walkouts around western Massachusetts.
Chicopee High School students made their voices heard Wednesday. They called themselves the generation of change. Students vowed to not be silenced by society.
“No longer will we be silenced by fear. We are young. We are strong, and we have the power,” said one student.
Hundreds of students gathered in Chicopee High School’s gymnasium for a respectful rally.
It lasted for 17 minutes, and there were 17 students up front. Not only to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting but to advocate for change. Safer schools and tougher gun laws. Students told 22News it’s still an open wound.
Frances Palacio, a student at Chicopee High School, said, “At the time I wasn’t even scared or questioning what could happen around me and now, ever since then, I come to school and I have this feeling in my gut that it hurts.”
Students held signs, made speeches and organized the rally themselves.
“Adults and higher officials are always the ones to speak upon things, but for us to say something shows a lot,” said Denise Cruz, organizer of the Chicopee High school walkout.
Ultimately, students decided to have the walkout in the gymnasium rather than outside on the field after the Chicopee Police Department expressed safety concerns and so did students.
School Principal Jim Blain told 22News there were also many students who support gun rights or have different political views, who chose not to participate in the rally and stayed in the auditorium.
“I’m very proud of the student organizers and the entire student body who chose to attend and I’m proud of the students who choose not to attend and stand up for their rights,” said Blain.
Chicopee Police Officer Mike Wilk told 22News earlier this week that police wanted the students to stage their walkout inside due to safety concerns.
Wilk said there were no incidents during the event, and thanked the administrators and staff who worked with them to keep students safe.
“And to the students, well done. You are the future and have a voice,” Wilk said.
Students and staff at Elms College held a 17-minute peace vigil in conjunction with the National School Walkout event.
The vigil started with a prayer written for the Parkland victims by Rev. James Martin, of New York. A bell was chimed 17 times as the names of the 17 victims were read aloud outside the school. Between each ring, a cross or rose was placed on the Quad in memory of a victim.
Students at Easthampton High School were joined by Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle during their 17-minute walkout. The names of the victims of the Parkland shooting were read aloud at the beginning of the gathering.
The crowd of students chanted things like “Kids over guns” and “Our school, our lives” over the course of the walkout. One student who led part of the rally told 22News they won’t stop protesting until changes are made.
“Students should never be murdered in their schools,” said Alice Wanamaker, a freshman at Easthampton High School.
Wanamaker said students have more protests planned in the coming months.
“All we are trying to do is keep kids safe,” Wanamaker said.
Northampton High School was just one of many participating in the nationwide walkout Wednesday morning.
At 10:00 a.m., students filed out of the high school and stood outside for 17 minutes, honoring the 17 victims killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Students told 22News it’s important for them to take their safety into their own hands.
“We’re the next generation,” Jesse Zeldes said. “We’re going to be going to the polls soon. We wanna show them that even if we’re not at the polls yet in big enough numbers, that we can get other people there and we can start to rally and we can start to change this country.”
Students weren’t required to walk out if they didn’t want to, but the ones that did were asked to call their state representatives and promote gun law reform.
Organizers handed out papers to those who participated with representatives names and numbers on it, as well as a script asking them to support two bills that establish gun reform.
tudents at Springfield’s Chestnut Academy participated in Wednesday’s national walkout to remember the 17 students and staffers murdered in the Florida high school massacre.
More than 900 Chestnut Academy students and their teachers were linked arm in arm on the sidewalk facing Plainfield Street in Springfield Wednesday morning. Some carried signs that expressed their feelings such as “No Guns In My School” and “Break The Violence.”
Humanities teacher Erin Burns, organized Wednesday’s walkout at Chestnut Academy.
During the past two weeks, the Florida high school massacre made up part of daily classroom discussions. Erin Burns told 22News, the survivors in Parkland have been her inspiration.
“I love what the students, the survivors of the attack have done,” said Burns. “I was really inspired by their activism. And that’s why I could make this a topic that I focused in my classroom.”
And exactly 17 minutes after their walkout, The Chestnut Academy students returned to their classrooms. They’re proud to have done their part to honor the 17 who died during that terrible day one month ago.
Westfield High School was also among thousands of schools across the county that participated in the nationwide walkout.
Westfield High School students said they believed walking out of class to protest this morning was the right thing to do to show their support for the 17 students who died in the Parkland shooting last month.
Westfield High School students gathered around a flag pole out front of their school..where they stood in solidarity for 17 minutes. Many students held signs during this time, with messages supporting an end to gun violence.
One student protest organizer said it meant a lot to see all her classmates protest with her.
“I was hoping that people would make a stand and use their voice for good instead of using it just because they want to say something,” Erin Blake said. “People should just go to school and people should just be safe all the time.”
“School shootings and stuff like that need to stop. We’re supposed to feel safe at school you know? They’re supposed to take action and there’s nothing going on and we as students try to help,” said Elizabeth Figueroa, a student protester.
During the walkout, Westfield students also read off names of the victims who were killed in Parkland. The principal of the high school was present during this time of reflections well.
Fifth grade students at Coburn Philip G. Coburn Elementary School participated in the national walkout as well. The Coburn School shared photos of the walkout events held at the school on their Twitter account.
More than one hundred students from the Four Rivers Charter Public School stood on the Greenfield Town Common to protest the nation’s gun laws.
Only about half of the school’s 220 total students made their way to the Town Common for this morning’s protest. Students voiced concerns about gun violence, and why they believe the government should adopt stricter gun laws.
Alouette Batteau, a junior at Four Rivers Charter , told 22News, “As students of the nation to come out and say we need stricter gun laws in our country and to keep our schools safer.”
Four Rivers Charter Public School Principal Peter Garbis said the school does not promote any particular political view but they are focused on keeping students as safe as possible from gun violence.
He said students and faculty stood in silence for 17 minutes in front of the school before some of the students marched to the Town Common.
Turners Falls High School students also staged a similar walkout at the same time this morning.