While High Schoolers, Their Families Take To The Streets, Some Ask: Where Are The College Students?

Feb 23, 2018

Student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland organized a protest for gun reform outside the Biergarten Restaurant in Boca Raton Thursday morning. It was one of several demonstrations around the country targeting politicians who have accepted donations from the NRA.

Florida Republican Congressman Brian Mast was scheduled to hold a "Meet and Greet" at the restaurant, but rearranged his schedule to attend the funeral of Aaron Feis, Douglas High football coach that was killed in the shooting. Demonstrators arrived at the location and chanted “No AR-15” and "Vote them out" anyway.

Congressman Mast's office issued a statement indicating Mast "supports the students efforts and hopes it leads to real change, including change to gun laws," and says the legislator would be "happy to meet with the students."

Among the protestors were Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors, their families and a few activists supporting gun reform and school safety. 

Broward College student Flavia Ruiz, 18, says she attended another protest over the weekend and felt the need to continue the fight, something seen strongly from high school students nationwide since the shooting. But what about post-high school activism? 

Flavia Ruiz (right) is a college student participating in the majority high-school age protests in South Florida
Credit Adrianne Gonzalez / WLRN News

Ruiz says money and time might be some of the reasons why college students are not participating as strongly as high school students in protests after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting.

“The fact that they’re not in high school and they don’t feel directly impacted by that specific scenario might be a factor, but I also feel like some of us are paying for our classes – we can’t afford to miss out,” said Ruiz.

She says that her memory of high school includes active-shooter drills and preparations, but at the time it was just another drill. She participated in the protest, and expects to participate in more, but doesn’t see the college culture as involved as she would like.

Bob Kaley, 26, has also noticed the age-trend.

“I hope people start taking democracy back into their own hands. We are a representational democracy, but the word democracy is still in there and we need to force our politicians to hear us,” said Kaley.

He believes the post-high school activism we’ve been seeing since the shooting can best be described by Edmund Burke – an 18th century political philosopher who said “democracy’s best villain is apathy.”

Stoneman Douglas students are set to return to school next Tuesday, almost two week after the shooting that killed 17. With the return, recovery and grief counselors will be helping the students get back on track with their education, but as David Hogg, student activist, asked on WLRN's Sundial: How will the Douglas students balance school and activism?

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Update: The original story stated Congressman Mast rescheduled the location of the ‘Meet and Greet’ the day before the protest was to be held. New information from Congressman Mast’s office states the Congressman was attending the funeral of Aaron Feis, the Douglas High football coach that was murdered during the shooting.