Winnetonka HS students view national walkout day as springboard for future changes

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Students in North Kansas City opted to use a national school walkout day as an opportunity to spark their own movement for activism and change.

For 17 minutes, Winnetonka High School students marched in solidarity with Parkland, Florida.

"I believe in my students. I trust them. I honor their voice and I think our students’ voices are powerful," said Dr. Eric Johnson, Winnetonka High School principal.

"I feel like as a community we need to speak out our voice. We need to show that we’re not going to go quietly," said student James Long.

Students then gathered for powerful messages about using this moment as a means to help foster that change.

“After Las Vegas, I tried to speak up. Do something other than cry for once. But people said it was disrespectful, pushing policy on that platform of pain. But when the tempo slows in the hearts of victims until they are no more beats per minute. What else are we supposed to do but speak?” student Katie Bullock said in a poem.

"As a student and a gun owner, I can see both sides where people are trying to argue. But it can no longer be about lines and not wanting to cross them. We must talk as people and come together," said student Joseph Bell.

And the students are encouraging activism in their peers. They're planning to help 18-year-old peers register to vote and shared information on a text line where students can find how to contact their elected officials.

"Even the president is saying hey, maybe we should start to think about banning bump stocks and things like that and that gives me so much hope and seeing amount of people out here gives me so much hope," Bullock said.

Students are also leaving these bright orange notes with motivational messages inside their school.

"What we choose to do with our lives. What we choose to embody, that’s the way we make the change in the world. We can’t just sit back and think about it," said Bullock.

Next month, in the week leading to the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, Winnetonka will mark school safety week, centered around #whatsyour17, promoting kindness through 17 smiles to strangers or compliments and making new friends.

"The idea is to decrease and suppress isolationism. We really believe in relationship building here at Winnetonka and when you have that foundation, it’s a more proactive way to ensure students remain safe," Dr. Johnson said.

Many of the North Kansas City students are also planning to participate in the upcoming "March for Our Lives" at J.C. Nichols park on March 24 to keep the momentum going.