2018-03-13 / Front Page

TA students gather to make signs ahead of walkout event

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Executive Editor

SACO — Thornton Academy students are going to be well-prepared when they join millions of kids across the county in a 17-minute walkout on Wednesday to remember the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

Some TA students gathered with family members and two Maine gubernatorial candidates at Saco City Hall on Saturday to make signs opposing gun violence to be used at the event. Also attending the sign-making gathering were State Sen. Justin Chenette of Saco, State Rep. Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford and Saco City Councilor Lynn Copeland.

TA junior Natalie Ben-Ami helped to arrange the four-hour Saturday session and her commitment to ending gun violence at schools is unwavering.

"I organized this event so there would be a lot more meaning behind the walkout," Ben-Ami said. "It's my hope that it wil help spark people to join this movement."

The international walkout on Wednesday calls for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and supporters to participate in a National School Walkout for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone on March 14. Its intent is to protest the inaction of the U.S. Congress to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing American schools and neighborhoods and remember those who have died or been injured in senseless school shootings. 

Ben-Ami said she wants Congress to pass legislation to keep students safe from gun violence at  schools, on streets and in homes and places of worship.

She said that students and staff have the right to learn and teach in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school and parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them come home alive at the end of the day.

Zachary Hodgkins, a senior at Thornton Academy, said he showed up Saturday for the same reason everyone else did who was at Saco City Hall.

"We want to see change," Hodgkins said. "Whether it's Parkland, Sandy Hook or anyplace else, it could be us. I'd like to believe we can make a change in our society."

He said he was going to focus on creating signs warning of the influence the National Rifle Association has over the U.S. Congress. Other signs he was making will encourage students age 18 and older to register to vote.

Hodgkins said he believes that Congress must take meaningful action to keep students safe by passing federal gun reform legislation that addresses the public health crisis of gun violence. 

Former Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, brought poster boards to the events for students to use to create signs.

"They're doing a great job and I think it's an important thing that they have a strong voice," Dion said.

Paula Cote, the wife of Adam Cote, who's also a Democratic candidate for governor, said the entire Cote family, including her husband and all of the couple's five children, drove over from their Springvale home to participate in the sign-making event.

"As a mother, we all need to speak out for our children and for school safety," she said. "Our kids deserve to be safe in school."

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at editor@journaltribune.com.

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