As a nation, we continue to mourn the 17 lives lost this month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) in Parkland, Florida. The loss of any young person is an unspeakable tragedy. Whether in Parkland or in a community like Sanford, Florida, where we lost Trayvon Martin six years ago this month, this violence tears apart homes and communities at a blinding rate.
And yet, there is hope.
Young people have led the charge for social movements for hundreds of years. In particular, LQBTQ+ youth and young people of color have laid the foundation for today’s young leaders to be heard. They have affirmed that Black Lives Matter. They are DREAMers. They have helped change policy and law; challenged gender-based violence; and have fought for equal access to education.
Like so many young people that have come before them, the students at MSDHS have transformed their grief into action. While mass shootings happen all too often, they are not as common as the violence and systemic discrimination that plagues Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ youth and young people with disabilities. We are proud of the young MSDHS leaders, and we will continue to fight against the inequities and health disparities that still exist for many young people. They remind us that young people are not just the future—they are the now.
In times like these, as adults we often struggle with the right words to say. But rather than getting stuck in silence or fear, let’s carve out space to truly listen, leverage our privilege, and show up for young people in our communities.
Peer Health Exchange believes in the potential of every young person. We also believe that schools should be safe, healthy environments for all students. We will continue to work to empower young people to make active, informed choices about their health, because we believe all young people have the right to live long and healthy lives. Please join us and continue to show up for young people and advocate for their rights to learn in safe schools and classrooms, free from fear and violence.