Renewed student activism in Polk County
Since the Parkland shooting in February, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have fought to make their voices heard, from voicing their opinions on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram to leading marches and making speeches on national television.
Many teenagers across the country have followed their lead. On March 14, thousands of students and teachers walked out of their classrooms as part of the “#Enough! National School Walkout” to raise awareness about the impact of gun violence.
On March 24, hundreds of thousands participated in March for Our Lives protests across the country. The turnout was so large that, according to USA Today, the event could be the largest protest in Washington, D.C.’s history.
Students from high schools in Lakeland and Lake Wales gathered together on March 24 to support the national March for our Lives effort, demanding that their lives and the safety of students become a priority for the country.
Students began the rally at 2 p.m. in downtown Lakeland’s Munn Park to protest gun violence and to support the national #NeverAgain movement. The movement was begun in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead. The rally included an expansive voter registration drive.
The Lakeland March for our Lives is not the only example of Polk County students protesting. All across Polk County students are utilizing various platforms in order to make their voices heard. One such student is Kala Ivy Tedder.
Tedder, a senior at George Jenkins High School, is challenging incumbent Hazel Sellers for the District 3 seat on the Polk County School Board.
Tedder, 18, joins Sarah Fortney, a science teacher at Stambaugh Middle School, in attempting to oust Sellers, a retired teacher who is serving her fourth term on the board.
District 3 includes Mulberry, Fort Meade and parts of Bartow and Lakeland, but all voters registered in Polk could vote in the nonpartisan race.
“Students have to stand up now because we are the only ones who can speak for us,” Tedder said.
In the last few months, Tedder has campaigned extensively in District 3. In her campaign stops, Tedder told students that they have the power to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard.
Tedder isn’t the only Polk County student attempting to make their voice heard. All across Polk County political events have emerged in the shadow of the Parkland shooting.
While student activism is becoming prominent again, it is by no means a new concept; however, and it is not limited to gun reform efforts. For years, students have been a crucial part of movements since the end of World War II and have made headlines for supporting various causes.
In 1963, more than 1,000 young people were arrested in civil rights demonstrations. In the early 1970s, high school students across the country staged walkouts to protest unequal conditions in their schools.
In the midst of student-led rallies and protests, however, many quickly dismiss their efforts, stating that they are too sensitive or too young to truly understand the cause. Polk County students are attempting to change this narrative and force change.