The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Students march for their lives


At 837 marches, communities gathered to protest the lives lost to gun violence.

But in Redwood City, it was different.

In Redwood City, the rally was for the students, by the students.

At the head of the cause was a group of students from the Sequoia Union High School District: Stefan Sujansky, Holly Newman, Sophie Penn, Ria Calcagno, Elise Kratzer, and Katie Uthman.

While another rally was already scheduled to take place in San Francisco on March 24, Penn, a senior at Carlmont High School, said bringing the issue to Redwood City would make it more accessible for the community.

“I’ve always been really passionate about gun reform and gun control, and it’s something I’ve been researching in the past couple years because of more and more shootings happening,” Penn said. “I wanted to make the rally more local than the San Francisco march so that our community could actually come together and do something as a group.”

But when they began planning less than a month ago, they didn’t expect the thousands of children, parents, and teachers to pack Redwood City’s Courthouse Square.

Among the thousands was speaker Francesca Battista, a sophomore at Menlo-Atherton High School. She felt that Parkland set off the March For Our Lives movement because of a shift in mentality. 

“In the wake of Parkland, we have transitioned from thinking of gun violence in a literal sense to thinking of it in a conceptual sense,” Battista said. “We can understand that, in the literal sense, 17 people died, but we can also understand that, in the more conceptual sense, 17 people died because of a lack of action.”

For Battista, it is important to express her voice now that she is in high school and understands gun violence better.

“We were in elementary and middle school when Sandy Hook happened, so we only understood what was going on to a certain degree,” she said. “Adults didn’t want us to understand what was going on – they didn’t want us to be afraid of going to school in elementary school.”

But times have changed, and now, even third-graders, like Arundel Elementary School’s Hayden Vandenberg, understand and want to make a change.

“Only the middle schools got to walk out on March 14, but the elementary schools didn’t, so I’m here today to stand up for what I think is right,” she said. “I feel like our teachers don’t allow us to be out in the world. They don’t tell us anything. I want the teachers to let us say what we think.”

And that’s what Redwood City’s rally was all about – it wasn’t the adults who drove the cause, it was the students. 

Redwood City councilmember Shelly Masur said what made the rally “amazing” was the student involvement.

“It’s you guys whose lives are in danger,” Masur said. “There’s only so long that we’ll be in charge – you guys are going to be in charge. I think the fact that you’re standing up and saying ‘You need to pay attention to us because this is our future. We’re going to be making decisions and this is what we want is amazing.” 

The involvement of students like Sujansky, a senior at Woodside High School, contributed to the success of the event.  

“The success of the event, the amount of people who came out, was beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “I was expecting it to be almost entirely older people and parents who support the cause, which we love, but I was so happy that there were mostly younger people getting involved.” 

Because students organized and ran this event, young people, like Emma T Capps, 21, felt empowered to share their opinions. Capps, a cancer survivor, said in her speech that she is more afraid of dying from gun violence than dying from cancer because cancer can be treated.

“In the common psyche, the thing that puts the most fear in people’s hearts, in terms of dying, is cancer,” she said. “For me, what is more terrifying and more likely and more unpredictable is gun violence. The idea that we can put a bandaid on gun issues by saying ‘Let’s treat mental health better. Let’s treat students being lonely’ is being reactive, but we need to be proactive. Banning guns is proactive.”

Capps, along with the other student activists who spoke out, believe they have taken a step in the right direction for their safety at school.

“I think as a member of a generation who has been witness to violence literally our entire lives, it is important for us youth to use our voices, especially in this time of political craziness,” Battista said. “Often we feel like we don’t have a voice, so it’s extremely important to exercise our voices when we can.”

Mass Shootings in the United States Since the Beginning of 2018

2012. Newtown. 26 lives.

2016. Orlando. 49 lives.

2016. Sutherland Springs. 26 lives.

2017. Las Vegas. 58 lives.

2018. Parkland. 17 lives.

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
Students march for their lives