Hello! I am Miles Barth, an eighth grader at St. Thomas, and I organized our school walkout. I organized and mobilized our seventh and eighth grade students to walk out for 17 minutes on March 14 at 10 A.M. in response to the Parkland shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students.

For weeks, I had been following the news surrounding the Parkland shooting and the movement that resulted from it. It was interesting, but being so busy with schoolwork, I didn’t really consider whether or not it was happening at St. Thomas, that is, until the night before it happened. I was sitting in my room, scrolling through my newsfeed, when I suddenly saw a CNN article titled, “What you need to know about the national school walkout.” When I saw that article it suddenly hit me, the walkout was tomorrow and no one had planned it.

Immediately, I began to formulate a plan on how to hold our school walkout. I decided that I would tell everyone in the class about the walkout, inform the principal beforehand of our intentions, and, finally, our class would walk out at 10 A.M. for 17 minutes, as directed by the Parkland survivors. I started to call, text, and, even XBox chat with anyone I could, just trying to get the message out. I had contacted about a quarter of the class before I had to go to sleep, setting my alarm clock for extra early the next morning. I was the second eighth grader at school the next morning. I convinced the other eighth grader who was there, Cameron, to take park in the walkout, and I went to talk to the principal.

“Hey Mrs. Swinefurth,” I said, “Can I talk to you for a second?” “Sure,” she replied, beckoning me to enter her office. “What is it?” “I just wanted to let you know that, some of the eight graders, including myself, are planning to walkout today.” There was a tense, silent moment. Mrs. Swinefurth sighed, “I have been expecting this. Can you go get any other eighth graders from the gym?” “Okay,” I said, “But there’s only one other person there.” Mrs. Swinefurth said, “Well, go get the one person.” I ran back to the gym to get Cameron. We explained the walkout plan to Mrs. Swinefurth, and she agreed to permit it.

As more people arrived, I told each one about the walkout plan, and got nothing but positive feedback. News slowly spread to the seventh graders, and before long they were also in on the plan. As we sat down for our 9:30 English class, the entire class felt a shared sense of anticipation and nervousness. I had to reassure multiple anxious people that the walkout was still on. Then at 9:45, a call suddenly came from Mrs. Swinefurth, requesting my presence in her office.

I returned to the classroom to be met with the worried expressions of my classmates. “It’s alright guys,” I said, talking to the crowd, “We’re still on.” The principal had only wanted to discuss the fact that the seventh graders were also taking part in the walkout. It was 10:00. Without a word, we all stood up, and filed out of the classroom. Outside, we met with the seventh graders, and our moment of silence began. After a while, we began to speak about why we were there. Many were taking part in the walkout because they believed in the stricter gun control legislation that the Parkland survivors supported; others because they wanted to honor the memory of those who had died. Either way, for 17 minutes we stood outside in the cold March morning, in solidarity, support, and, most of all, love.