Schenectady students to join walkout at Niskayuna Town Hall

Schenectady High School students participate in a walkout on March 14. (Marc Schultz)Schenectady High School students participate in a walkout on March 14. (Marc Schultz)

NISKAYUNA — A busload of Schenectady High School students on Friday will join a walkout and gun control rally organized by Niskayuna High School students at Niskayuna Town Hall.

The rally comes as part of another day of walkouts across the country on the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine school shooting in Colorado, and will bring together student activists from dramatically different schools less than two miles apart.

Schenectady and Niskayuna students have been in contact about trying to join forces for Friday’s event since students returned home from a March 24 rally in Washington. But as of the end of last week, it appeared the joint venture was not going to come together.

The students, though, were able to finalize plans earlier this week as the Schenectady teens gained access to a bus, funded by the high school, to transport them to the Niskayuna rally.

“It’s very powerful because Schenectady and Niskayuna are such separate communities with very different experiences with gun violence even though they’re right next to each other,” said Suzie Davis, a Niskayuna senior and one of a core group of students organizing the walkout and rally. “The two communities don’t interact very much, and it’s a testament to the far-reaching nature of both the issue and the movement.”

As a student movement against gun violence has emerged in the weeks since a Florida school shooting, activists have worked to showcase the different types of gun violence that face different communities.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – the Florida school where a shooter killed 17 people in February – have worked to share their national platform with students from communities that have long suffered from gun violence. Students from Chicago, Washington and south Los Angeles all spoke about their experiences with the regular gun violence they live with every day.

As soon as students started to organize walkouts locally, Schenectady students pointed out that they have long lived with gun violence. Many Schenectady students have lost friends or family members to gun violence, and organizers of a March 14 walkout there commemorated the names of 17 Schenectady victims of gun violence along with the 17 people killed in Florida.

“If there was a will, there would be way for kids to get from here to Niskayuna Town Hall,” said Schenectady social studies teacher Chris Ognibene, a chaperone for the trip. Ognibene said he has never seen a time when students were so engaged in activism during his teaching tenure. “This is a group that is full of energy.”