2018: A Year of Student Activism


Houlton Dannenberg, Reporter

The 2017-2018 school year was filled with political movements across the nation, such as the #MeToo,  #TimesUp, and the #NeverAgain Movement. Although each movement was inspiring in its own right, the #NeverAgain Movement worked its way into the classroom to an extent unlike the others, and students at West High made it their own.

The Parkland Shooting affected the entire nation when students began to speak out against the NRA and for more restrictive gun control. Since the Parkland Shooting on February 14th, 2018, there has been the March For Our Lives and thousands of local school walkouts/sit-ins across the nation.

At the first school walkout, just a week after the Parkland Shooting, West was led by senior Haley McKinley. “I knew I just had to be a part of the movement they’re organizing,” McKinley said. “Really what it came down to was that I wanted to be a part of it…then I realized that it was up to me to involve myself in the situation.” McKinley’s walkout, although impromptu, gathered support and hosted multiple unrehearsed speakers.

Seniors Janpal LaChappelle and Corin Katzke gave speeches attesting to the importance of gun control.  “I spoke because it bothers me that a religious dedication to an outdated constitutional amendment would prevent passing legislation that actually helps people and prevents death,” LaChappelle said. Katzke followed LaChappelle, saying, “it should be the responsibility of the government to enact common sense gun reform to prevent a shooter in the first place.”

The walkout was just the beginning of the local movement, as the worldwide March for Our Lives was held on March 24th. With hundreds of thousands of participants, the March was a blatant message of teenage political power and resilience. Students from multiple schools in Anchorage worked with local police and the city to host their own March. From West, juniors Elsa Hoppenworth, Jingsia Hathorne, and Burke Croft assisted in pulling off the effort. Hoppenworth, who was one of the first speakers at the March for Our Lives, was quoted in the New York Times: “those who do not contribute to change contribute to our death.” The week before, President Trump had announced a ban on bump-stocks, but was largely criticized for being too little too late.

After the March, more nationwide efforts were made. On April 20th, another local walkout was held. Hoppenworth, Croft, and McKinley, with a small group of other student organizers, joined together to lead scores of students in remembrance of previous school shootings and to, once again, call for gun reform. Signs featured at West’s second walkout included “Grants Not Guns” and “I am Stronger Than Fear”, a quote from women’s right activist Malala Yousafzai.

Although all seniors will remember 2018 as the year they graduated, some students will remember 2018 for their participation in a youth-led political movement. In 50 years, as graduates pull out old high school yearbooks and relish in the “good old days”, perhaps a sense of pride and satisfaction will roll over them as they remember the way they helped shape their world.