17 minutes of empowerment and inspiration

Take this moment, and let it inspire the rest of your life.

That was the message from student speakers at Satellite High School’s National School Walkout Day program on March 14.

“We can’t allow our students, our teachers and our friends to be killed in our school,” Kelli Lynch, senior class vice president, told some 500 students gathered in the school commons. “We have the power to make change.”

For the walkout, students were urged to leave class for 17 minutes in memory of the 17 people who were killed in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The walkout was also intended to raise awareness about mental health issues, school safety and gun violence.

The Satellite High event was planned and executed by students, with the approval of school administration. Several other schools in the area held similar walkouts at the same time.

Parkland is just over two hours away from Brevard County, bringing the tragedy close to home for local students. One student at Satellite High attended Stoneman Douglas last year.

Lynch started the assembly off by reading the name of each victim, along with a brief description of their lives.

“These 17 souls may have been lost on Feb. 14, but they will never be forgotten,” she said. “They deserve so much more than one line. They deserve to be remembered.”

She added: “To every politician out there, we don’t want thoughts and prayers. We want permanent action.”

Students, many dressed in orange T-shirts to represent the national movement to stop gun violence, bowed their heads for a moment of silence. The school’s choral group, the Ten Tones, held hands as they sang a stirring version of “We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace.”

Chris Bruno, president of Satellite’s speech and debate club, urged students to create a legacy of advocacy and change for the Parkland victims.

“This moment will forever be in the timeline of your life,” Bruno said.

Student body president Julia Hoffman, who also helped organize the walkout, said afterward that she thinks students will continue to be inspired and be involved in change. “I hope that students take a way a sense of unity and togetherness that they saw today,” Hoffman said.

“At this point, it’s not about politics. It’s our lives.”

Hoffman and Lynch, who both will be old enough to vote for the first time in November, said they and others they know have become more politically aware since the parkland shooting.

They were careful not to link the school walkout directly with any specific legislation, and they purposely didn’t bring the debate about gun laws into the event.

However, Lynch said, she thinks violence and safety will be the defining issues her generation votes on for years to come.

“I’ll be first in line at the ballot box,” she said.

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