Boston Public Schools Students Stand Against Gun Violence at the March for Our Lives

On the eve of last month’s March for Our Lives, 70 Boston Public Schools students eagerly boarded busses and set out on a nine-hour drive to Washington, D.C., to join the nationwide movement against gun violence.

Following on our promise to stand with students and teachers in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Fla., HMH was proud to sponsor the trip, which was organized by the nonprofit organization Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE). Supporting its larger mission to end neighborhood violence, MJE’s youth programs help children from Boston’s urban communities who are at risk of witnessing, perpetrating, or experiencing violence find strength, confidence, sustainability, and leadership.

The trip enabled MJE youth members – many of whom had never before left the city of Boston – to attend the march, share their stories and connect with thousands of peers from across the country who face similar circumstances.

“Ninety percent of the students we work with at MJE hear gunshots every day in their neighborhoods,” Laura Jean, MJE’s youth programs coordinator, said in an interview after the march. “Being able to go from Boston to Washington, D.C., and see that this is not just a local problem was very impactful for them.” 

We also had the chance to speak with two students who attended the trip – Jermida Horton, a 10th grade student at West Roxbury Academy, and Jaheim Dwyer, an eighth grader at Mildred Avenue Middle School in Mattapan. Both students became involved in MJE through their schools and found inspiration from the March for Our Lives rally.

“I liked seeing the amount of people that wanted to change something,” Jaheim said. “We heard other people’s stories about violence, and I think we can help make a difference.”

“There was a large amount of people there for the same purpose,” Jermida said. “That should mean something to our government. It was for a good reason – this isn’t a small issue; it’s something that is hard on families and should be changed.”

At their respective schools, the two students hope to help create a renewed sense of community and find ways to make their voices heard, they say. Their ideas include forming student governments in schools that don’t have them and performing emergency drills.

“Not all schools let students have a voice,” Jermida said. “We can play a role and share ideas about what should be done to make our schools safer.”

MJE is also fighting the problem of violence in Boston through several initiatives, including working with City of Boston on internal emergency procedures and active shooter drills. MJE members will release balloons on the steps of city hall this spring in memory of individuals who recently lost their lives to gun violence.

“This is a way to take the work and inspiration from the march and bring it back to Boston,” said Laura of MJE. “We will continue to raise awareness and fight against what has happened to the ones we love through gun violence.”

Youth have played a role in driving change throughout history, and Jermida and Jaheim are optimistic that the March for Our Lives movement will follow suit.  

“This is affecting young people, and young people are the future,” Jermida said. “You should want to help us, not hurt us.”