On March 14, Grant Park High School students and staff hosted a walkout in support of the students and victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. These local Canadian students representing youth solidarity across the border are calling for stronger youth activism.
The walkout “focused on student activism. It was students who came up with the idea. It was students who were walking out. It was students who were taking a stand, and I think that’s a big deal in that students have a voice. They want to care, and they want to make a difference,” Izzie Helenchilde, a student at Grant Park High School, says.
Some youth’s activism experiences start when they are growing up.
Sunny Enkin Lewis, Alexa Mucyo Kayonga, Julie Van and Helenchilde are students at Grant Park High School. They now serve as the organizing committee for the Grant Park High School walkout, having gotten involved with activism in different ways and at different times.
Lewis’ and Kayonga’s parents integrated the need for caring about other people as they grew up. All four young women participated in several activist activities, such as attending WE Day, starting a student group that promotes political activism, learning from MLA Jim Carr, taking part in a Yellow Bench project and participating in women’s marches.
Currently, all four students are on the organizing committee of the Rights Here Rights Now human rights conference.
“My parents have always been super passionate about human rights, and that’s something I’ve grown up with, and they’ve really instilled in me the values and the morals that everyone is equal and that everyone deserves the basic human rights,” Lewis says.
The Grant Park walkout promotes youth solidarity across the border between Canada and the United States .
“I think our lives are so intertwined with that of the United States, so I think (youth solidarity) means standing with the people who are so close to us. We have so many similarities in our society, and it’s also in finding those ways that it also applies to Canada. When we see such a big uprising … with Black people in the States, we can say, ‘Yes, that’s an issue in Canada,’” Lewis says.
She continues on to say there are more issues that are localized in Winnipeg, such as racism against Indigenous people.
Van says being involved with activist organizations has expanded her knowledge from just watching the news with her parents to actually being able to explore where her role is in issues around the world and her viewpoints on them.
Reshal Stein has been working with the young women as their teacher supervisor for the upcoming human rights conference being held at Grant Park High School. She believes that adults need to speak to younger people to truly understand the way they work and how they care and understand the world around them.
“Conversation and dialogue is really important,” Stein says.
Stein also says Grant Park High School has several different courses that instill human rights knowledge into young people, such as classes on Indigenous knowledge and global issues, as well as student clubs that integrate social justice aspects into their background of experience.