Fresno students are joining the national March for Our Lives movement and calling for comprehensive gun reform in the wake of the fatal high school shooting incident in Florida.
Yasmin Mendoza, a 21-year-old college student, began the Fresno effort this week after she decided she no longer can stay silent.
“For a long time I decided to stay out of it and not really say much,” the Fresno High School graduate said. “I just decided I needed to step up. This isn’t a red or blue issue. … We need to figure out something together.”
Mendoza prayed about her decision to lead the local effort. She hopes the March 24 event will unify the local community and empower students to work for a safe education and future. Mendoza and other organizers are hoping to secure permits from the city before determining a time and location for the event, which is gaining steam on social media.
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So far, local congressional candidates Andrew Janz and Rico Franco have come forward to help the student organizers. The group’s Twitter account also got some love from Audra McDonald, who also donated to the event’s GoFundMe.
Mendoza said she remembers starting school and doing earthquake and fire drills. But by the time she graduated from Fresno High, classes were discussing how to stay safe in an active shooter situation.
“I really feel this country has failed us in the sense of not being able to keep the students safe,” she said. “I want every single student in our nation to be safe in a place where they are trying to get an education. … We are the future.”
The march is not to be confused with the Women’s March call for a 17-minute walk out on March 14, to “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
At this week’s Fresno Unified board meeting, officials urged students to find alternatives to the walk out.
The walk out also stirred up controversy in Clovis Unified this week after a Clark Intermediate science teacher sent an email saying he planned to participate in it. Seventh-grade teacher Nathan Dean sent another email saying he wouldn’t leave his students unattended on a school day. He also apologized for using his school email address to promote the event.
Dean declined to comment to The Bee.
Clovis Unified Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell sent an email to staff reminding them of a policy requiring political neutrality during class time. A message also was sent to parents saying educators were working with students to find alternative avenues to express their views on the issue.
Mendoza said everyone is welcome to the March 24 event, including those who believe guns are not the problem.
“Just hear us out,” she said. “In the end we all want the best for everyone.”