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ORHS Students Stand Against Gun Violence  

Paige Burt (’23) speaks to the students gathered, megaphone in her right hand, her phone in the other. Five days after ORHS conducted an active shooter drill, 13 days after the latest school shooting in Nashville, and eight days before a man got arrested for sitting in front of Portsmouth High School with guns and body armor, ORHS students walked out of their classrooms.  On April 5th, high school students across the country conducted 300 demonstrations in 41 states, according to Students Demand Action. After hearing about the walkout and having alarming conversations with her peers, Burt knew she had to speak. “Education is my big thing: the more we can understand about how these things work the better off we’ll be [to] take action ourselves,” she said.  
Delaney Nadeau (‘24) (above right) and Grace Kasper (‘25) (above left) helped ORHS join in on the national walkouts. The idea was born in the Writing Center on April 4th, a day before the walkout. After seeing TikToks  about walkouts in high schools, Kasper was inspired. “[We] repost these things [saying]— ‘gun violence is bad’—but the thing is that we don’t actually do anything about it,” said Kasper. “The teens of America decided that we were going to actually stand up and actually do something about it.” Nadeau and Kasper spent the next 23 hours frantically planning and advertising the event on social media and through mouth of word.  
Elise Bacon (’26) stood in front of the crowd, speaking from her heart. She did not know there was going to be a walkout until the morning of April 5th. When she found out about the walkout, she spent the next few hours spreading the word. “I have four younger siblings… I hate sending them to school every day, I hate saying goodbye to them… hate that they’re growing up like this,” Bacon said as the students filed back inside, her voice shaky, filled with emotion. She is working towards creating a chapter of the Students Demand Action group at ORHS, a student led organization to end gun violence.  
The windows were filled with faces as classes ground to a halt. Karen VanDyke, a social studies teacher (seen in the bottom middle window) watched as people left her classroom and filled the courtyard, reading the signs students held above their heads and listening to the speeches. VanDyke noted that even though this is such a big systemic issue, the “only guarantee of not making a difference is not doing anything; if you don’t try, nothing is going to change.”  
The windows were filled with faces as classes ground to a halt. Karen VanDyke, a social studies teacher (seen in the bottom middle window) watched as people left her classroom and filled the courtyard, reading the signs students held above their heads and listening to the speeches. VanDyke noted that even though this is such a big systemic issue, the “only guarantee of not making a difference is not doing anything; if you don’t try, nothing is going to change.”  
Ganya Brooks (‘23) (above right) watches in the crowd as Kasper and Nadeau give their opening speech. Behind her, Burt and Maya Ajit (‘23) hold signs Burt had in her car from a gun violence protest she participated in last year. The crowd’s opinion was mixed, but many students saw this as an opportunity to make real change. Kasper was nearly brought to tears looking out over the crowd, at the group of people who gathered with only a day’s notice to show their support for the cause. “You don’t realize the impact you have on the world… I’m just a little 16-year-old girl in this small town, and I can still make change.”

– Hazel Stasko

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