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Washoe, UNR Students Protest Gun Violence

Jacob Solis
UNR sophomore Andrea Sbei holds a photo of Scott Beigel, who was killed in the Parkland, Florida shooting.

Students across the nation participated in a national school walkout Wednesday. The protests were aimed at pressing lawmakers to take action against gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting at a school in Florida last month that killed 17 students and teachers. Our reporter Paul Boger checked in with the students at Earl Wooster High School in Reno.

Credit Paul Boger
Wooster senior Ann Snellgrove looks on at the crowd of more than 200 classmates who advocated for gun control in light of several recent school shootings

Just after 10 o'clock in the morning, at least two hundred students from Wooster High gathered in the entryway of the U.S. Post Office on Vassar Street in Reno.

The students are part of the massive school walkout movement that took place across the country.

As part of their version of the demonstration, the students marched a half mile from the school's front door to the post office to mail letters to Republican lawmakers, Senator Dean Heller and Congressman Mark Amodei, demanding action on gun control.

"Most of the time I do feel safe, but whenever there is another shooting that happens -- there was the one at Sparks Middle School a few years ago [and] there's been one at Pine Middle School where I went -- whenever something like that happens it always brings about the fear that it could happen anywhere," says senior Ann Snellgrove. "It could happen to anyone."

Credit Bree Zender
Wooster senior Ann Snelgrove read a poem at a short rally following the delivery of student letters to Senator Dean Heller and Congressman Mark Amodei.

"You don't ever want to feel sometimes safe, you should feel safe all the time," says Jeremy Mazzucotelli, another Wooster senior. "The fact that every time you go to school you have to acknowledge the fact that you might not come home is not something anyone should have to face, especially not children."

But students weren’t the only ones there.

"How do you protect yourself?" asks Marilyn Morton, a grandmother who marched with the students to show support but also voice concerns. "Are you supposed to get a backpack that's bulletproof? Are you supposed to carry around a little shield over you when you go to first grade that's bulletproof? No! That's absurd."

Officially, the walkouts were never sanctioned by the Washoe County School District, which stressed that students who participated would be marked absent, tardy or, in some cases, truant. Administrators instead tried to offer official events to engage all students.

But for Wooster principal Leah Keuscher, seeing so many of her students take part in the demonstration is a source of pride.

"They're great kids, they organized this and we're just here to support them and make sure that they're safe, but I'm really proud of my students," she says.

Credit Bree Zender
Wooster student Summer Mather participated in Wednesday's walkout.

This may not be the only planned demonstration against gun violence. A large-scale march is planned to take place across the country later this month, as well as another national school walkout in April, marking the twentieth anniversary of Columbine.

Students and faculty gathered at UNR for 17 minutes of silence to honor the victims of Parkland, Florida.

At the University of Nevada, Reno, things were a bit more subdued. A 10 o’clock walkout meant to coincide with events at local high schools drew about two dozen students.

Just days away from spring break, many classes are in the middle of mid-term exams.

The university sent out a reminder Tuesday that scheduled exams wouldn't be moved to accommodate Wednesday's activism. 

Around noon, more demonstrators, many of them students, gathered at the university library for a 17-minute moment of silence.

Sophomore Andrea Sbei was there.

"I'm from Vegas and I had friends and family down at that shooting, and it just hurts my heart to hear this stuff happen and to see it happen, and to see other people lose their friends and family," she says. "And I can't not do something about it and try to help and spread the word and raise my voice along with others."

Along with wearing maroon awareness ribbons, 17 participants held framed photos of the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Before joining The Nevada Independent, Jacob interned for Nevada Public Radio, where he covered the 2017 legislative session, and Reno Public Radio, where he was on general assignment covering everything from immigration to traffic to the Northern Nevada housing crunch. During that time, he also worked for UNR's student paper, The Nevada Sagebrush, serving as editor-in-chief from 2016 to 2018.
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