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Pittsfield Students Join National Walkout

Josh Landes

Pittsfield High School students joined in the day of walkouts around the country Wednesday. 

Students at Pittsfield High School stood in solidarity with their peers around the country, dozens filling the front steps of the school with signs and chants about gun control. But the tone was different from last month. A similar action took place on February 27th.

“It’s a bit different, because it’s not more of a memorial. Today’s more of a protest. So we stand strict with ‘we want reform'," said Makailey Cookis, a PHS senior and activist who helped organize both walkouts in Pittsfield.

The message at this one was clear.

“My sign says 'Enough Is Enough'," said Isabella Penna-Ward, a ninth-grader.

“It means that the violence needs to stop, and that children need to feel safe in schools,” Penna-Ward said.

If a sense of hopelessness prevailed in the weeks after the February 14th shootings, the 17 minutes on the steps of the high school Wednesday felt like something more. For many of the students, this was their first experience with political demonstration.

“Yes, it has been my first time, and it is very powerful, and I feel like it will make a change one day,” said Julianna Martinez, 17, a junior at PHS.

“Not much happens in Pittsfield normally," said Liam Nestor, 17, also a junior at PHS. "So being able to connect with the national level in Pittsfield is pretty cool.”

He noted other differences between this and the school’s first walkout.

“Well, there’s no police barriers and it’s a lot colder," Nestor said. "It’s snowing this time. But we still came out.”

The galvanizing impact of a unified protest was not lost on Nestor.

“Usually high schoolers are just students, we’re not usually viewed for our opinions," Nestor said. "But now we have a medium to project our opinions into the world.”

A pair of well-wishers were happy to see the students’ opinions on display, standing on the sidewalk in front of the school as snow fell and passing cars honked.

Pam Schultz has two grandchildren at PHS.

“I’m just proud of these kids, and they’re all going to be voting in November, and that’s what they need to do,” Schultz said.

Her friend, Susan Wismer, offered this advice.

“Keep this up," Wismer said. "Don’t quit. Be persistent. Change takes time, but be persistent. Don’t quit. Resist!”

But little encouragement was needed among the assembled youth. With a powerful theme providing their generation with a national platform over the past month, their voices were loud and clear.

“A message to the rest of the country would be, we need to make a chance and today is the day we make it happen," said Julianna Martinez. "We can’t until something else happens, it has to be done now. In order for it to be done now, we have to keep protesting and keep doing what we have to in order to make this change happen.”

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