April 14, 2023
Tags: Community, Education, Event, News, Youth Leadership,
On April 5, 2023, hundreds of Guilford County students participated in a walkout to honor victims and demand action on gun violence. Cece, a 17-year old student at Grimsley High School and an NCCJ Youth Ambassador, organized the Grimsley walkout. Cece says, “My peers and I organized the Grimsley walkout to give students a chance to share their voices. We will continue fighting to make our school and community safer while providing others with chances to share their stories and use their voices.”
Keep reading to hear more from Cece and other teens who participated in these walkouts.
Gun Violence in our Community
Students across the United States are increasingly confronting the reality of the prevalence of guns and gun violence in their communities and schools. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country, firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens (ages 1 to 19) in the U.S.
In an average year, approximately 1,500 people die by guns in North Carolina. This puts North Carolina as the state with the 14th highest rate of gun violence in the country. The rate of gun deaths has increased 47% from 2012 to 2021 in North Carolina, compared to a 39% increase nationwide.
On a more local level, there are over 200 deaths every year from gun violence in Guilford County. In June 2022, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners declared gun violence a public health crisis. By declaring gun violence a public health crisis, the health department could use educational campaigns to promote safe gun storage, teach children the dangers of gun violence, or hold school and community events. District 5 commissioner Carly Cooke stated, “this is one of the tools that we have as a county, we are responsible for supporting the public health of our community and approaching this problem through the public health lens is, is one way that we can try to, to increase safety and improve outcomes for.”
We interviewed a few NCCJ student ambassadors about how gun violence has impacted their school and their lives. Here’s what they had to say:
How has local and national gun violence impacted you, your community, or your school?
“In the past few years, Grimsley lost several students to gun violence, most recently Ariyonna Fountain on April 2nd, 2023. Personally, not a day goes by that I don’t worry about someone bringing a gun onto campus, which is something that has happened several times this year alone. Many times when firearms or other weapons have been found on students or people who don’t belong on campus, we don’t know until the end of the day. This is something that neither I nor many of my peers appreciate.
Just a month or so ago, we went into a ‘soft lockdown’ and teachers were told to lock our doors and continue with class. However, everyone in my class nervously laughed because the glass panel right beside the lock of our classroom door was broken, so locking the door wasn’t going to do much, nor would a door that’s half glass anyway. It’s unfortunate that we were so desensitized to gun violence that we laughed.” – Cece, 17, Grimsley High School
“Local and National gun violence has impacted my school and my community by the shooting that killed one of our students, Ariyonna Fountain. Ariyonna was only 17 and was shot and killed. It affected our school heavily with the amount of people that knew her. The morning of the walkout, we held a memorial in honor of Ariyonna.” – L., Grimsley High School
Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens. How does this statement make you feel and how does this impact your community?
“There aren’t words to properly describe how I feel about it. I feel anger, sadness, confusion, and so much more. We have the right to live long, happy, and healthy lives, but that’s impossible with the constant fear of being shot.” – Cece, 17, Grimsley High School
“It’s an overwhelming feeling, it’s hard to know that any day I leave the house could be my last. It’s hard to accept the fact that the place where I should be learning new things and meeting new people could be the place where I die. You could argue that that could happen anywhere but school out of all places should be the last. Therefore, that statement is an overwhelming feeling.” – Lane*, 17, Grimsley High School
On April 5th, 2023, hundreds of students across Guilford County participated in a walkout to protest the rising gun violence among youth. As students gathered at schools and marched through neighborhoods, they demanded action from local lawmakers.
The Grimsley High School community recently felt the impact of gun violence when, on April 1st, 2023, 17-year-old student Ariyonna Fountain was shot and killed in an act of gun violence.
During the walkout, students wore pink and held a memorial in honor of Ariyonna. The local events took place in solidarity with a national walkout on April 5th, organized by Students Demand Action. Across the country, tens of thousands of students took collective action to demand change.
Cece, an NCCJ Student Ambassador, organized the walkout. Here’s what they had to say about the preparation for the events and next steps:
“I wanted to share my voice and let the world know that we students won’t just sit back and let our lives be endangered for no reason. I organized a team where everyone had specific tasks. I and another person were in charge of keeping communications with Students Demand Action, someone else was in contact with the media, and others created flyers to share on social media and to hang up across campus.
Go to the Students Demand Action/Everytown website at studentsdemandaction.org to get more info! Find out your regional organizers’ information and see if they can help you start a walkout at your school. You can also start a club dedicated to raise awareness at your school and push for changes to make it safer. Organizing big events is also much easier with a team, plus it gives more people a chance to share their voices!”
More reflections from NCCJ student ambassadors on gun violence in their communities:
What message would you like lawmakers to know?
“You are prioritizing your guns over my life. My life, the lives of my peers, and all of the wonderful things that we do and will do in our lives could end in an instant simply because our elected leaders are prioritizing a weapon that, as the past and recent times have shown, almost always does more harm than good in our communities. Our legislators should be protecting us, not allowing us to be in more danger. Gun violence needs to end now. “ -Cece, 17, Grimsley High School
A message I would like the lawmakers to know is that it should not take thousands of people’s lives to do something about gun laws. especially children out of all people. We speak up, nothing happens. Hundreds of news articles go out and nothing happens. So my message is, what is it gonna take? Is it going to take your own child to die due to your lack of restrictions on gun laws? And if so, how can you live by that?” -Lane*, 17, Grimsley High School
What message would you like youth/students to know?
“My peers and I organized the Grimsley walkout to give students a chance to share their voices. We will continue fighting to make our school and community safer while providing others with chances to share their stories and use their voices.” -Cece, 17, Grimsley High School
“I want the students and youth to know that there are more of us than there are of them. I want them to know that we do have a voice and to keep being courageous by using it.” – Lane*, 17, Grimsley High School
Why do you think students should care/be activists?
“This affects us!! As much as I love many people in the generations before us, and their support is indispensable, they as a whole aren’t going to make the changes necessary to end gun violence. Saving our own lives shouldn’t be something we need to do, but it is. Nobody else is going to do this for us – we have to take a stand ourselves.” – Cece, 17, Grimsley High School
“I think we should care because this generation of students are the ones who genuinely could make a change. Students should be activists because people should hear from the ones experiencing the issues and living in it. If not us, then who?” – Lane*, 17, Grimsley High School
Listed below are resources for learning more about guns and gun violence and for taking action against gun violence:
- North Carolina Gun Laws
- A Detailed Picture of School Gun Violence in America
- Solutions to Prevent More Gun Violence in Schools
- Four Key Facts About School Gun Violence
- Why Arming Teachers is Not the Solution
- Donate to Ariyonna Fountain’s family
- North Carolinians Against Gun Violence
- Students Demand Action
- Gun Control Advocacy Organizations
- Find and Contact Your Legislators
*”Lane” is a pseudonym.