What’s next for student activism?


Photo courtesy of SDA.

Logo of the national branch of Students Demand Action.

Following the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, student activists have burst onto the political stage. From emails to marches, students continue to increase their presence in the political realm, and they’ve made it clear they’re here to stay. So as the national conversation continues moving, students across the nation, and here at York, are planning more events and remain as faithful as ever to affect change in any way they can.

There are many ways in which students are looking to affect change, but their number one focus is educating people about the issues and raising awareness. During the March 14 walkout, organizers gave students a sheet of paper that contained the contact information of our local and national representatives in an effort to provide students information about how to contact their legislators concerning issues they care about. Activists are also pushing to inform more people about the issues in order to allow them to fully understand their position.

“It’s important to make sure you know your stance and you’re well educated on what you think,” junior and activist Maddy Small said. “Because it really doesn’t matter what side of the issue you fall on, because if you’re educated about it you can speak about it in a way that will get your point across and will possibly persuade others.”

One group that could be an important player in educating and motivating students is Students Demand Action. The proposed club is in the first stages of creation and, if approved, will be open for membership in the fall of 2018.


The local group is a branch of a national organization by the same title, but our local chapter is being organized by freshman Ava Uditsky, sophomore Jack Castanoli, and senior Cambria Khayat. The national branch evolved out of the gun reform movement following the Parkland shooting, however the group won’t be truly partisan.


“We are missing bipartisanship in our politics today,” Uditsky said. “So we are looking for bipartisanship next year in our group.”


The group plans to encourage student involvement in the political process starting next year. Once the group has been fully established, one of their first activities they hope to plan is a voter registration drive before the 2018 midterm elections. The drive would be aimed at raising the number of voters aged 18 to 24, a demographic that currently maintain the lowest voting rate in the nation.


“I think a voter registration drive is such a good idea because voting is such a big part of the democratic process,” Uditsky said. “A lot of the teens that don’t register to vote don’t register because either it’s not accessible or it’s not easy, so we’re trying to make it accessible and easy.”


In addition to getting students registered to vote, the group also wants to help educate people about the candidates in the midterm elections. Usually YTV and Young Politicians work together to produce short segments about the policies of the candidates, and Students Demand Action are looking to join with them to help educate students as well. Once the group has obtained a strong footing and a solid membership, the organizers are looking at possibly holding town hall-style meetings with representatives. The goal of meeting is to allow students to interact with our local and possibly federal representatives to get them more engaged in politics.


“Our primary goal is to register students to vote,” Castanoli said. “Some of our bigger goals are to activate students to get involved in politics and to leverage the unique talent shown by students to grow the movement.”


Several other groups are also advocating for and providing education concerning the issues that people care about. On March 12, two days before the walkout, several York students went to a forum at Willowbrook High School about school safety. The forum was organized as a place for students to express their concerns and opinions about this issue that hits so close to home. Forums similar to the one held at Willowbrook High School are also becoming more common.


For example, Progressives for Change, an Elmhurst based group that meets monthly to discuss the issues they care about, held a meeting on April 11 about teenage activism.

Photo courtesy of Progressives for Change.
Authors of the book Wake Rise Resist Joanna Spathis and Kerri Kennedy speak at Progressive for Change’s April meeting.

“When the students went up to speak, it was very connecting,” Castanoli said. “As a youth activist, when the students spoke, I got more inspired.”


Their meetings center around educating people about a variety of civil rights and equality issues. Here at York, although clubs are wrapping up as the school year winds to a close, students are no less determined to affect change.


One club that has been very influential over the past several years has been Empower. Although the club’s main issues are related to women’s rights, the members of Empower are also concerned with a wide array of other equal rights issues. The national chapter of Empower has organized several marches, including the several Women’s Marches that have taken place over the last few years, and due to the increase in student activism, Empower has seen their membership increase.


“Our membership has been going up for years,“ club sponsor Lindsey DiTomasso said. “However this year we have seen it increase even more. We continue to get new people every week.”


So as the school year enters its home stretch, the student body will continue to be active and put their best foot forward to work towards a better tomorrow.