“I will make 17 new friends.”
“I pledge to encourage 17 people.”
“I pledge to write 17 letters to legislators by the end of the month.”
Those were just a few of the pledges students wrote Wednesday morning on the “What’s Your 17?” paper banner hung on the wall in a main hallway at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School.
The event was one of many held Wednesday at schools around Fort Wayne and the nation as a way to remember the 17 students and staff who were killed Feb. 14 during the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The network of people who organized the past two Women’s March events in Washington, D.C., had called on students to walk out of class at 10 a.m. today and stay out for 17 minutes – one minute for each of the people who died in the Parkland shooting.
Citing school safety, school officials at many local schools tried to encourage students to participate in indoor activities or events sanctioned by the school or school district.
At New Tech, however, 21 students chaperoned by a staff member did gather outside the front entrance during the 17 minutes to voice their concerns about school violence, guns and gun laws.
“How is a child who is not legally able to drink able to own a gun?” one young woman asked as students took turns voicing their comments or concerns.
A larger number of students took time to write pledges on the banner, an event organized by sophomores Esa Rhodes, Jazmyn Davis and Emma Cannon.
The idea was inspired by a social media post the students saw from a teacher in another state, and they revamped it for New Tech, Davis said. New Tech students were invited to write down a pledge to do 17 positive things as a way to commemorate the Florida school shooting victims.
The goal is to bring people at school closer together, which will help prevent violence there, Davis said.
They have gotten a lot of positive feedback about the event from fellow students, though some haven’t supported it, Rhodes and Cannon said.
Rhodes, Cannon and Davis hope Wednesday’s event won’t be a “one-day thing” and will carry on in the future.
During students’ usual small group meetings, New Tech at Wayne staff will hold a follow-up discussion in two weeks to talk about whether students followed through on their pledges, said Emily Oberlin, New Tech director.
Beyond that, “wherever they take it, they take it,” Oberlin said of Rhodes, Davis and Cannon.
Here are some of the other pledges New Tech Academy at Wayne High School students wrote on the “What’s Your 17?” banner Wednesday morning at the school:
• “I pledge to write 17 nice letters to peers.”
• “I pledge to make 17 peers smile today with words of encouragement.”
• “I pledge to smile at 17 new people today.”
• “I pledge to say hi to 17 new people.”
• “I pledge to call 17 lawmakers and voice my opinion on our current gun laws.”
• “I pledge to make 17 people laugh every day.”
• “I pledge to help 17 people in need!!”