Josh Mink stood before a crowd of 700 and spoke into the megaphone.
“Raise your hand if you have any little siblings. Raise your hand if you have any cousins. Raise your hand if you have any friends. Raise your hand if you’re a student of this school.”
Every hand was raised on the lawn of Shaker Heights High School.
Getting a group of teenagers to do, well, anything is a challenge. But following the shooting that killed 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Mink, a rising senior, inspired his peers to fight for change.
After first asking permission from Principal Eric Juli, Mink organized a student body “walkout,” a style of protest first made famous during the labor movement.
On May 26, students clad in orange — a color that shows support for the fight against gun violence — left the classroom to gather, share personal anecdotes, express anger and shed tears for their peers. They were joined in spirit by thousands of children across the country, who walked out of their own schools in the days following Uvalde.
“Our students today are the leaders of tomorrow,” says David Glasner, superintendent of Shaker Heights City Schools. “The fact that our students are informed, interested and engaged in issues that affect them and others directly is a positive sign for the future.”
And while some say protests don’t do much, the students’ stride for change is already causing ripples in their community.
On June 14, the Shaker Heights Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution in response to House Bill 99 that states Shaker Heights schools will not allow their staff to have firearms on the school premises as a means of defense.
“This issue is so prevalent,” says Mink. “So many students took that experience from school and brought it home to the dinner table and to their friends, to other schools, social media, and it spread through the Shaker community and hopefully the Cleveland community, as well.”