Transcript of Student Advocacy Initiative demonstration

Includes speeches, biographies of victims


Shannon Ahearn

About 1,000 students and teachers participated in the March 14 Student Advocacy Initiative demonstration in support of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and for legislative action on banning weapons such as the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle used in many of America’s mass shootings, including Sandy Hook and Parkland.


Hello, and thank you for participating in our Student Advocacy Initiative. As you know, we are gathered here to show solidarity with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

We want to express our support for stricter gun control laws and help lead a world rich with empathy and free from violence. We will now have a speech read by Morgan Albano.


17 students and educators were murdered by a gun at their own high school. I guess it has sort of taken me aback. Taken me back 5 years.  After the recent tragedy in Parkland, I instantly felt like it was 2012 again when 26 innocent children and teachers were gunned down only a few miles from where we stand today.

My mom is an elementary school teacher in Newtown, CT. Her first ever job as a teacher was at Sandy Hook Elementary, where she taught in the same room that years later would be the classroom where a sick young man would enter and spill blood on December 14th of 2012.

I could tell you everything that happened to me on that day. I make it a priority of mine to remember as much as I can. But I can’t tell you what it felt like to see my mother walk through the front door sobbing, knowing that the lives of so many that she loved would be forever lost.

I had to learn very quickly that everything was not going to be alright. Driving through Newtown, you would see memorials of stuffed animals and families walking somberly in the streets because there really wasn’t anything to be happy about. Parents were mourning their children, and everybody’s world was turned upside down.

My mom was very adamant about doing whatever we could to help out the community of Newtown during this time, and the years after. From a young age, I learned the importance of working hard in order to invoke change in communities. One of the first things I did was visit the temporary replacement school for Sandy Hook. People all across America were sending their support by making little paper snowflakes, and I helped by putting them up.

If we are keeping track of time, that was 12 days after the shooting. And here I am, 5 years later,  still trying to whatever I can to support victims upon victims of gun violence. Through these last few years, I’ve noticed the drastic changes a society undergoes when placed in situations of tragedy. As a community, Newtown came together to heal in any means possible, and I know the community of Parkland shares these experiences.

Parkland is forced to change its own community, and MSD students are now demanding change in order to ensure widespread safety. One thing that every community in America has in common is gun violence. When studying data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was found that on average 96 Americans die every day from guns. I don’t think a lot of people recognize the obscene amount of people that really is. That means about 96 people a day get a phone call telling them that their loved on is dead. 96 communities must learn how to regrow, and prosper through the tragedy of losing someone in a horrific manner.

As a high school student, I find myself really wondering what I want to do for the rest of my life. I think about my future, colleges and careers, yet also must recall my past. Gun violence influenced the way I grew up so significantly that all I can envision myself doing is trying to end it. I am thankful that I have the chance for a future, when other students like me never got to. In their honor, I wish to do whatever I can to make sure no other community can feel the true horrors of gun violence.


We will now have a speech read by Cassidy Holmes.


This is our world. This is our country. And in our country we have a voice. We the students of Danbury High School have a voice. In our world, we feel uneasy to walk through the doors of any school. Safety is no longer guaranteed no matter where you go and what you do. When we leave our homes, we step into a world where purchasing a firearm is quick and simple. Due to these loose laws, we lost 17 lives a month ago to this date. Children the same age as you and me, gone in an instant. This movement may have been sparked by the Parkland tragedy, but this is also about all the lives taken by mass shootings and firearms. This is about Parkland, Pulse, Columbine, the Aurora cinema, and Sandy Hook, which hit close to home for many of us. It’s heartbreaking that our generation has gotten so used to hearing of this tragedies on the news, as if it’s the new norm. I’ve noticed a pattern with how most people react to another tragedy. They first find out, feel sad, post prayers and condolences and then move on with their day. Your prayers and condolences are heartwarming, but you know what’s even better? ACTION. Use your voice and speak out. We need stricter gun laws. We demand change and we demand it now. Go out and vote, call your representatives, educate yourself on these issues. Speak up for what is right! Speak up for those we honor today.


We will now have brief bios read of each of the 17 victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.



Alyssa Alhadeff was fourteen years old, born May 1, 2003. She was a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and one of the youngest victims. Alyssa loved playing soccer, and played travel soccer in Parkland, Florida. She was a bright and well-respected individual, with dreams of one day becoming a doctor. A few years ago, Alyssa and her family moved from New Jersey; they wanted to live in someplace warm and heard that Parkland was one of the safest cities in Florida. She was full of life and had so much creativity and spirit. Alyssa was loved by her parents, younger brothers, and all of her family, friends, and teammates.


Martin Duque Anguiano was a 14 year old Junior ROTC cadet who was killed in the Parkland tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14. According to friends and family, Martin loved Star Wars, soccer, his family, and was strong in his faith. While in school, Martin was honored with multiple JROTC awards. The US Army has also officially awarded him with a Medal of Heroism which is given to a JROTC cadet who performs an act of heroism and, according to its criteria, is awarded to an individual whose actions set him apart from others in similar circumstances. Without a doubt, Martin, a kind-hearted and dedicated individual, is hero not only to the masses of people who are called to action by his name and to fellow students and friends who survived the tragedy, but most importantly to his family; his mother, father, 4 siblings, and both grandmothers who raised him in Mexico. Martin, you will be missed by many.



Nicholas Dworet was seventeen years old and a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He was captain of the swim team and had hopes of going to the olympics in Tokyo in 2020 for swimming. He planned to attend University of Indianapolis in the fall, commiting to the swim team and earning an academic scholarship. His coach and teammates spoke about his positivity and the support he gave his team. Nicholas Dworet will be missed but never forgotten.



Jaime Guttenberg was only fourteen years young when she had her life stolen from her.

Jaime was described as mature beyond her years, genuine, and charitable. Her teachers described her as intelligent and caring, as she always helped others. She spent time defending those who couldn’t defend themselves. In her free time, she was a devoted and talented dancer. she inspired people with disabilities to dance as well. She had a plan—to be a pediatric physical therapist. She wished to be married and have a child by the age of 25. The rest of her life was still ahead of her, and unfortunately, someone’s heartless and cruel actions, cut that life short.  



Luke Hoyer was a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. At only 15 years old, he was unsure of what he wanted to do when he grew older, but knew that he loved spending time with his dogs and eating chicken nuggets. Ever since he was a young child, he loved everything about basketball, and was a big fan of Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Friends and family described Luke as a happy-go-lucky kid with a cheerful, humorous disposition who was always seen sporting a great, big smile. A cousin recounts that was “ always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious, and so was his laugh.” In his obituary, his family noted that “just having him around made the room feel warm and welcoming.” He was incredibly close to his mother, who says that she says she cannot imagine life without him and the light he shared with all who knew him. Luke Hoyer was a happy, positive individual filled with so much life and one who will be forever missed.



Cara Loughran is a 14 year old victim of the Parkland shooting. She would have celebrated her 15th birthday on February 21st by enjoying a movie marathon with her best friend, Katalyna. Her 17 year old brother, Liam, survived the shooting and awaited the tragic news about his sister’s whereabouts for many hours with their mother Denise. Cara is described by friends and family as “kind and quiet”. They said she was shy about her talents, one being her involvement in Irish dancing. Honoring her heritage and grandparents that live Ireland, she modestly practiced her passions at the Drake School of Irish Dance in Coral Springs. The dance company shared that Cara was a beautiful soul who always had a smile on her face. Grief-stricken, her aunt Lindsey wrote these words following her death: “This morning, I had to tell my 8-year-old daughters that their sweet cousin Cara was killed in the shooting yesterday. We are absolutely gutted… She was an excellent student, she loved the beach and she loved our girls.” For Cara, a kind, innocent, quiet and always smiling 14 year old girl, we honor the victims of the Parkland shooting today and send the thoughts and love of our students to theirs.



Gina Montalto was 14 when she lost her life. Her father recalls her “infectious smile,” warm personality, and great sense of humor. She was a member of the marching band’s winter color guard at her school. She also was an active member in her local church and participated in Girl Scouts. She loved little kids and volunteered to help children with special needs. Gina enjoyed cooking during the holidays, shopping, spa days with her mother, and New York Jets games with her father. She was a studious student with a bright future, as well as an avid reader of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Gina’s mother described her as a “smart, loving, caring, and strong girl who brightened any room she entered.”



Joaquin Oliver, age 17, was a Senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. He was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States with his family when he was about 3 years old. The whole family had just recently received their American Citizenship on January 20. He lived in Coral Springs, the next city over from the small community of Parkland. Joaquin played in local rec leagues and loved baseball. He was a devoted fan of a Venezuelan national soccer team called La selección de fútbol de Venezuela. He was a big fan of Frank Ocean. He also loved to write poetry. Joaquin devoted his life to loving his family, especially his mother, to who he used to call his “rock”. One of his friends, Jada Dacosti said “I remember him as a fun, energetic person. He lights up a dark room instantly. He smiles and just knows how to make you happy”. May he rest in peace, along with the other victims.


Alaina was described by her classmates as “humorous, faithful, confident, loving, inspiring and devoted to helping others.” She always had a desire to help people less fortunate than her, especially the victims of hurricane Irma. Alaina was always involved in countless activities inside Parkland High. JROTC was her favorite; she served in the female color guard team. Alaina always had a desire to become anyone’s friend. “You never felt that she was judging you,” her father said. “She just wanted to be your friend.” Her family claims she was wise beyond her years and that they learned from her maturity. Alaina’s brother, Ian, says, “The thing I learned most from Alaina… [is] how to be patient and loving, how to care for those around you.” Hopefully all of us can learn love and acceptance like Alaina and help carry on her legacy.



Meadow Pollack was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She was often described as confident and sassy, with a bright future ahead of her. She had plans to attend Lynn University next fall. Pollack grew up with a big family whom she adored; she had an especially close connection with her grandma. Her family described her as “the light of their life.” She viewed life with a positive mindset and always had a smile on her face. Her father is currently funding to build a playground in honor of his daughter. Instead of grieving at a cemetary, he wants to go to a beautiful park to remember his daughter. He said, “It won’t be an ordinary playground, it will be a playground built for a princess, like my Meadow.”



Helena Ramsay only lived to be 17 years old. In that final moment of panic, Helena Ramsay’s thoughts did not turn to her own safety — but to the safety of her friend. As a gunman opened fire at her school, 17-year-old junior Helena crouched by a bookshelf with her friend, Samantha Grady, instructing her to “Grab a book.” Samantha recalls that “It was a tiny book, but I took it and held it up.” Hiding behind the books is what saved Samantha, but Helena was killed. That moment of bravery in the face of horror is what friends keep pointing to as they remember a joyful girl who kept them laughing, with an infectious smile, big curly brown hair, and an endearing birthmark on her chin. A friend recounted that “Helena was a smart, kind hearted, and thoughtful person. She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was somewhat reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her. She was so brilliant and witty, and I’m still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone.”



Alex Schachter was only 14 years old when he was shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Before the shooting, Alex had lived with his Dad, step mom, brother, and two step sisters. They had all gotten along so well, a perfect loving family. He was just like us, a normal kid. He loved watching movies and watching Naruto. It was his favorite show. Besides watching tv, Alex loved being a musician. He was apart of the marching band. Last year,  the Eagle Regiment Marching Band won the state championship in Tampa. He was so proud to have beat their nemesis. It’s like the rush of pride you get when your school wins first place in a sport or something. Alex dreamed to come here. He dreamed to come to Connecticut, to UConn. His mother had went to UConn and he wanted to as well. He wanted to major in music. UConn made sure that’d happen as they accepted him even after his death. Although he couldn’t have exactly followed in his mother’s footsteps, he was close behind. Alex was a kind hearted soul. He didn’t deserve this, as no one does.



Carmen Schentrup’s seventeenth birthday would have been on February 21st, a week after she was killed. She was described as “the absolute sweetest” by one of her friends. Carmen had plans to attend the Honors Program at the University of Florida to become a medical scientist. She sang in her church’s choir, and played the piano, the violin, the guitar. Carmen loved Shakespeare, and read more than one hundred books a year. She got straight A’s. The day after she was killed, the letter informing her that she was a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist reached her house. She liked black dresses. She liked red lipstick. She liked teal handbags. She wanted to visit Germany, so she taught herself the language, and planned her family’s trip. Carmen was self-motivated, described as a perfectionist, witty, huggable, mature, kind, funny. She will be missed.



15 years old. Dreaming of becoming a soldier. Shot as he helped his peers to safety. Peter Wang died a hero. He had dreams and aspirations that he didn’t get to live out because of a bullet. He had so much to live for, his entire life ahead of him. Jokes he never got to tell, graduations he never got to attend, a life he never got to live. He leaves behind his mother and father as well as a plethora of friends who will miss his jokes in the halls and his lively personality in his culinary class. As a member of ROTC, he dreamt of joining the military and serving his country. Peter Wang was a dreamer. He was posthumously accepted to the U.S. military academy at West Point bringing at least one of his dreams to fruition, though he didn’t get to live it. Let’s remember him as the hero he was, not as a victim of evil.



Scott Beigel was a teacher. He was a coach. He was a son. He was a brother. Scott Beigel was a hero. Beigel was a 35 year old Social Studies teacher, cross country coach and camp counselor at Camp Starlight in Starlight, Pennsylvania. Beigel was engaged to Gwen Gossler who recalls a time just months prior where the two were watching news coverage about a similar tragedy. He said to her, “Promise me if this ever happens to me, you will tell them the truth — tell them what a jerk I am. Don’t talk about the hero stuff.” As the shooting was taking place, Beigel was outside of his classroom, rounding up the students who found themselves in the hallway at the time the event began to occur. Many families accredit Begiel for saving their children’s lives. No one who personally knew Scott Beigel was surprised to find that he spent his last few minutes helping others. His own sister even said, “He was a hero before he saved these lives. Just as many people who will be talking about Scott would be calling him a hero even if this didn’t occur.” Thank you Scott, for your heroism.



Aaron Feis was 37 when he died selflessly shielding students from a gunman’s bullets. After his death, a coworker noted that “he died the same way he lived — he put himself second.” Students remember him as an approachable, friendly man who dedicated himself to improving the lives of others. He had been the assistant football coach for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for more than ten years. He educated students on the sport that he loved and worked tirelessly to help them pursue football in their futures. As a security guard, he was a selfless protector and supporter of those under his care. A former student recalled that  Feis was “a counselor to those who had no father figure.” Feis leaves behind his loving wife Melissa and his daughter Arielle. Coach Aaron Feis will forever be remembered as a selfless, compassionate hero who strove to put the needs of others above his own.



Chris Hixon was the athletic director and wrestling coach of Stoneman Douglas who died trying to save his students. He was a veteran that was deployed twice to the Persian Gulf. He also made a strong impression on his students. “Coach Hixon, for me, was a father figure,” said Karlos Valentin, a senior wrestler. He was described as hardworking, and was known and respected by all of his fellow coaches. Senior wrestler Ray Corniel recalls Hixon bringing food for tournaments and taking care of his students as if they were his own children, teaching them life lessons. He was hard on his kids, but he made them stronger. Under Hixon, the team won a state and national championship in 2016. He was an avid NASCAR fan and studied at Broward College. Hixon leaves behind a wife and son.


We will now have a final speech read by Taylor Hay.


Sandy Hook happened just 5 years ago. I didn’t live in Danbury at the time, so I am not sure what the day looked like for all of you, but mine very well could have been the worst day of my life. I remember my principal making an announcement over the loudspeaker. With defeat in his voice, he told us that we were officially on lockdown, and that no one was to leave their classroom because this was not a drill. I sat in my art classroom, chills raced down my back and a sudden wash of cold swept through my body. Then came the fear. The lights were soon turned off, the blinds were drawn, and quiet giggles hung in the air. We were kids at the time, not many of us knew the severity of what was going on. Hours later, when I finally arrived home, my father held me in a long embrace, something he did again just a month ago, right after Parkland.

Since Sandy Hook, there have been 186 shootings that have taken place on school grounds. How many students, in how many towns across the country, have sat hidden under desks for so long that their legs lose feeling? How many students have sat there, hoping the lockdown was just another drill? A few weeks ago, a post from a suburban mother went viral on facebook. In the post, she explained that she gave her children doorstops to keep in their backpacks in case there is a school shooting. How many more young children need to have these talks with their parents? We, as students, are asking for change. Congress, we’re talking to you. America, we are TALKING to YOU. All our lives we are told to grow up, but the second we stand up to politicians and government agents, our voices are silenced. They dismiss our concerns and our liberality on the account that we are ‘just children’. One day we are young adults who are expected to know what college we want to go to or what major we want to pursue, to file our taxes independently or pay for our cars, and the next we are children that “have no place” speaking out about gun violence.

We, as Americans, have gone through enough of these shootings. We, as Americans, have lost enough of our friends, our family members, our teachers, our coaches, our LIVES, to gun violence. We, as Americans, have had enough. Stricter gun laws, more thorough background checks, and bans on semi-automatic assault weapons may just be the step we need to take in the right direction to end this suffering that many of us have endured. Living in Connecticut, we are lucky that our senators feel strongly and passionately about these issues, that they support us and fight alongside us. But we are not just speaking for us, we are the voice for those kids in Florida who are fighting with every fiber of their being to have their voices heard against the law-makers, that just DAYS after a mass-shooting, shut down a proposal to ban assault weapons, and instead, voted to arm teachers. As much as I love when my father hugs me, I never again want him to do it because he heard of a school shooting. I never again want to see a viral video of a parent sobbing as they talk about how they weren’t sure if they told their daughter they loved them before they went to school for the very last time. I do, however, want to see change. All of us, right now, make up the future of our country. Seeing such proactive measures by students scares the senators, the congressmen, the politicians, because they know that we will be stronger than any of them will ever be. If we have to fight every single day until our voices are heard, that’s what we’ll do. Parkland, Danbury is with you.


Again, we want to thank you for joining us in our effort to fight for stricter federal gun laws and regulations that will provide more safety for our nation. Violence only begets more violence. We can no longer tolerate our societal glorification of warfare and actions of brutality. Instead, we will chose to support patience and empathy, not only through the implementation of more counseling and support groups, but through individual acts of kindness. We will go forth in standing with the victims of Parkland, and promoting a society safe from guns, free from violence, and abounding with compassion, love, and support.

We are in complete awe of the students of Douglas. The way they’ve spoken out for what they believe in is remarkable. To call them inspiring is an understatement. Here are these teenagers who are actually making a difference, who are standing up to politicians more than twice their age and demanding change. Throughout our country’s history, young people have always lead social movements, demanded change, and fought for justice, and we hope to honor their legacy with our own initiative. We may be young, but we all have the power to take action. Register to vote, call your congresspeople and tell them what change YOU want to see. We all have voices that cannot be silenced because we have an obligation to stand up for what is right.

As an act of solidarity, we’ve been asking students and staff to sign this banner that will be sent to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. If you’d like to write a message of support, it will be in the cafeteria during lunch periods this week.

Thank you.


We will now have a performance by the Madrigals.