'We Will Be The Generation To Kick Them Out': 2 Florida Teens On What They Want To Show Politicians In D.C.

"I hope politicians will understand that we’re not letting it slide."

This Saturday, thousands of people are expected to hit Washington D.C. for March For Our Lives, a rally organized by the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Since the shooting happened, students across the country have done their best to keep the conversation about gun reform in the news. On March 14, an estimated one million students demonstrated in walkouts at 3,000 schools across the country. 

Valery Lenti stands with a sign in support of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. 
Valery Lenti stands with a sign in support of Marjory Stoneman Douglas.  Valery Lenti

But the march in D.C. on Saturday, March 24 is expected to be even bigger. Students are traveling from all over the country to participate. Valery Lenti, a student from South Broward High School in Hollywood, Florida, just a few miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, is raising money through a GoFundMe account to get students at her school to Washington, D.C.

"I want to show adults that just because we're young doesn't mean we can't have a voice," Lenti told A Plus. "I'm only 15, so I can't vote, but I convinced my entire family to go out and vote for the first time this November. I hope politicians will understand that we're not letting it slide, I hope they don't get too comfy in their seats because we will be the generation to kick them out."

Lenti, a young journalist who is just a sophomore in high school, has been actively writing about the protests for her school newspaper. Now, she wants to be a part of them. Her GoFundMe to help get to Washington D.C. raised $1,100 already, which was just enough for three roundtrip tickets that she got for herself, her friend and classmate John Reis, and her mother.

Reis, who is 17, said he is going to Washington D.C. to march because he doesn't want other communities to have to mourn like South Florida has. He feels like he has a close connection to the tragedy, and now he has to act.

"I am marching for the victims and survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but also for the students of the United States," Reis said in an email to A Plus. "It is ridiculous that we have to be subject to such a burden such as not knowing if or when your school may be shot up."

Since student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas began their fight for gun reform, the momentum has been palpable. The teens sat center stage at a CNN town hall that included NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch and three of Florida's congressman. They helped intensify pressure on advertisers who cut ties with the NRA. They raised millions of dollars for March For Our Lives. They watched as large retail stores stopped selling the AR-15

And then, perhaps most importantly, they saw Florida Gov. Rick Scott sign a bill that imposed a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns, raised the minimum wage for buying those guns to 21, and banned the possession of bump stocks. 

Lenti and Reis are now hoping to join the ranks of those student activists. 

"I hope that the 'adults' who look down on us because of our date of birth realize that this is not a silly school project, but a real, legitimate, and powerful movement which has the potential to do serious change!" Reis said.

Part of Lenti's motivation to march has been simple: fear. She said that she was always taught how to hide in school growing up, as most post-Columbine students were. But she never felt it could be real until the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, so close to her own high school.

"A couple days ago we had a fire drill at my school and nobody wanted to leave in fear of what could happen," Lenti said. "We're scared to go to school, we're scared that we can get shot at the same place we're supposed to be protected. My generation is tired of being afraid. I believe politicians should listen to us because we are the ones being affected by this. we're the ones that are dying." 

Reis, too, said that fear was part of why he wanted to march. He said fear of mass shootings at his school is probably thought about "more than is healthy" for his generation, adding that it was "in the back of your head constantly." Lenti even had to comfort her younger brother.

"Ever since the tragedy, I've been forcing myself to be strong for my friends and family," Lenti said. "I've had to comfort my 12-year-old brother because he was scared he was going to get shot at his middle school. He should be worrying about what lunch he's getting tomorrow."

Cover image via Shutterstock /  J Main.

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