Capital Region

As another school shooting unfolds, student activists go back to organizing

Vigil slated for Monday in Albany
Students at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School in March participate in a walkout to remember victims of the Parkland shooting.
Students at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School in March participate in a walkout to remember victims of the Parkland shooting.

CAPITAL REGION — As news about another deadly school shooting unfolded Friday, a group of Capital Region students returned to a task on which they spent a lot of time this spring: organizing to stop gun violence in schools.

The students – from Schalmont, Shaker, Bethlehem, Albany and Guilderland high schools – chatted through social media Friday afternoon about wayw to get together to grieve and honor the latest group of slain students.

“Obviously, like everybody else, I was really saddened by what happened, especially after all we have done in the country to push for (gun control) legislation,” Shaker High School senior Asma Bawla said Friday afternoon. “Instead of focusing on the fact that this happened again, I want to focus on the fact that there is an equally large response.”

The students, among a cohort of activists who organized marches and walkouts across the region in March and April, decided to host a vigil at Washington Park in Albany at 6 p.m. on Monday. Bawla said the vigil is open to anyone who wants to join.

Bawla called news of nine students and one teacher killed Friday at a Texas school “disheartening,” especially in the wake of the recent student-led walkouts, marches and protests. But she also said it was empowering to have a group of like-minded peers and the organizing experience to come up with a response to the Texas tragedy.

“Santa Fe, Texas, is far way, but it doesn’t matter, because we are together as a country,” Bawla said. “It’s a way for us to show our grief for those lives that were lost. We want to be there for them even though we don’t know them personally.”

The students who quickly organized the vigil have become friends in recent months, as they worked together across district boundaries to organize the March 24 demonstration in Albany and a day-long walkout and rally outside the Capitol on April 20.

“We knew we wanted to come together as a community to be able to grieve together because it just hits so close to home,” Bethlehem senior Lydia Martell said in a Facebook message Friday. “This could’ve been any of our schools. You just never know. We’re all very lucky.”

Schenectady High School senior Alyssa Harrynanan, who helped organized her school’s walkout in March, on Friday said she and classmate Trevor Luciani, who also helped organize earlier events, discussed ways to respond to Friday’s shooting but hadn’t decided on anything specific.

“It really is heartbreaking to see yet another school shooting happen, despite the efforts put into place to prevent it,” she said in a text message.

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