How one community member paid it forward for 642 students.

Written for David Blair, Fortune 500 businessman and candidate for County Executive in Montgomery County, Maryland

Across the United States, young people are leading the charge in galvanizing public support for gun control. So when students decided to walk out of class for a National Walkout in response to the Parkland shooting, I was compelled to act.

I’m a lifelong resident of Montgomery County, Maryland. I attended school here; my wife and I are raising our children here. One of the many things I love about this community is the level of youth engagement in important local and national issues, as well as our community’s commitment to giving back to others.

Student activists at each of the 25 Montgomery County Public High Schools formed a group called MoCo Students For Gun Control to advocate for common sense gun control laws and a ban on assault rifles.

Their message is simple: every student should feel safe going to school.

With their protest at the US Capitol quickly approaching, I was inspired by their work, their dedication and their resolve to get involved. But there were students who would not be able to participate simply because they couldn’t afford the metro fare to get to the Capitol.

Providing safe pathways through public transportation for these students would allow me to pay it forward. So, I offered the funds for 500 students to receive a free metrocard and fare to the White House to have their voice heard. I made sure volunteers walked with the students down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol building. Our team also helped them register to vote.

Over the last five years, there have been more than 200 school shootings in America. One shooting is too many. Guns have no place in our schools. They only increase the risk for tragedy and won’t keep our kids safe. Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, yet the state doesn’t extend gun regulatory power to local governments.

It’s important for every student to participate in democracy, but for many high school students the cost of just simply getting there would have prevented them from walking with their peers. The students below are just a few of those who took part in the walkout. I am proud to have supported these students in saying enough is enough and helping make their voice heard. We all have a responsibility to take part in the system, it’s never too early to start… and sometimes the youngest voices are the loudest voices. 

“Voting is important for me, because it’s a good chance for us to get our voice out and make change of anything that comes up that we need to address. It’s a good way to talk to our legislators and get our point across. Gun control is a big problem for us. I’d like to see that changed and I plan on voting as soon as I can.” Khari Johnson, Senior, Sherwood High School

“Voting is important for me, because it’s a good chance for us to get our voice out and make change of anything that comes up that we need to address. It’s a good way to talk to our legislators and get our point across. Gun control is a big problem for us. I’d like to see that changed and I plan on voting as soon as I can.” Khari Johnson, Senior, Sherwood High School

“Young people are the next generation and we want change. We want democracy first and want to be able to have a voice in our future and in our county. I think getting involved in things like this sets the stage for us and shows us how powerful we are and how we can go about what we want our country to look like. Gun control, criminal justice and #MeToo are issues that are important to me. I just did a paper on Black Lives Matter in school.” Abigail Leibowitz, Freshman, Northwood High School

“Young people are the next generation and we want change. We want democracy first and want to be able to have a voice in our future and in our county. I think getting involved in things like this sets the stage for us and shows us how powerful we are and how we can go about what we want our country to look like. Gun control, criminal justice and #MeToo are issues that are important to me. I just did a paper on Black Lives Matter in school.” Abigail Leibowitz, Freshman, Northwood High School

“I think voting is important because nothing can change unless we vote. We can all come up here and get our attention known, but unless you vote nothing will change in our representation in Congress. We need to get our voices heard so we can get legislation passed for what we are rallying for. One thing that I am passionate about is the achievement gap. I’m the president of the Minorities Scholars Program at my school. We tutor ESL students and work with middle school students at outreach workshops. A lot of people don’t know that they are affected by the achievement gap so we try and work to get the word out.” Monieya Maynor, Junior, Wheaton High School

“I think voting is important because nothing can change unless we vote. We can all come up here and get our attention known, but unless you vote nothing will change in our representation in Congress. We need to get our voices heard so we can get legislation passed for what we are rallying for. One thing that I am passionate about is the achievement gap. I’m the president of the Minorities Scholars Program at my school. We tutor ESL students and work with middle school students at outreach workshops. A lot of people don’t know that they are affected by the achievement gap so we try and work to get the word out.” Monieya Maynor, Junior, Wheaton High School

“Times are changing and we need more regulations on gun laws because this problem wasn’t as prevalent when older people went to school. I want to vote because I want to be a part of the movement and change.” Samreen Ali, Junior, Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School

“Times are changing and we need more regulations on gun laws because this problem wasn’t as prevalent when older people went to school. I want to vote because I want to be a part of the movement and change.” Samreen Ali, Junior, Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School

“I’m passionate about women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. I think treating each other with decency and respect is so important and no one is doing that right now. Gun control is such an important thing right now, because it is ridiculous that this keeps happening again and again. We’re doing nothing about it and just sitting back waiting for someone else to do it and make change for us. We need to get out there and talk about and come up with ideas. Being an engaged citizen means getting involved with legislators and anyone in the community. Talk to everyone you know about your opinions and get to know theirs.” Adelle Stacho, Sophomore (Right), Walter Johnson High School  “Voting is our future. The people who are running the country now are going to be gone and unable to make decisions in a decade or two. Taking charge of our future now is really important and it’s our future.” Jack Bentivoglio, Sophomore (Left), Walter Johnson High School

“I’m passionate about women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. I think treating each other with decency and respect is so important and no one is doing that right now. Gun control is such an important thing right now, because it is ridiculous that this keeps happening again and again. We’re doing nothing about it and just sitting back waiting for someone else to do it and make change for us. We need to get out there and talk about and come up with ideas. Being an engaged citizen means getting involved with legislators and anyone in the community. Talk to everyone you know about your opinions and get to know theirs.” Adelle Stacho, Sophomore (Right), Walter Johnson High School

“Voting is our future. The people who are running the country now are going to be gone and unable to make decisions in a decade or two. Taking charge of our future now is really important and it’s our future.” Jack Bentivoglio, Sophomore (Left), Walter Johnson High School

Brenna ParkerComment