We are the future

Blue Brasher and Gavin Kuncl

Students are taking to heart the wise words of Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Even though the life of a teen can be challenging and hectic, students are overcoming the limitations of being young and taking action on what they believe in.

As one looks around the bustling halls of Fayetteville High, there are hundreds of unique students, full of diverse beliefs and passions. Though the world is teeming with social and political issues, there are a few prevailing topics that are most preeminent in students’ minds. From LGBTQ rights, to Islamophobia, to women’s rights, students are bursting with energy to initiate change. The Register discovered a few young activists, and uncovered their inspiring stories.

Maggie Hendrix, a soft-spoken freshman with a fiery heart, passionately described the social issues that are most important to her. “I’m really passionate about issues like LGBT rights, combatting Islamophobia, women’s rights and access to health care through the ACA [Affordable Care Act]. I’m really interested in holding politicians accountable.”

Hendrix is highly active in the community; calling representatives, writing postcards/letters and attending town halls and legislative meetings. She is very involved in the Women’s March movement. “I’m holding monthly meetings of a group called a ‘Huddle,” it was the second action of the ten actions in a hundred days campaign.”

Hendrix will not step down as she stands up for her beliefs.

Cian Kennefick, a senior with a great deal of activism experience under his belt, explained what matters to him, “The issue I am most passionate about is workers’ liberation and self-government.” He believes that the current economic set up is exploitative to workers. “I don’t think it’s fair that you produce a certain amount, but only earn a small percentage of that in wages.” To combat this problem, Kennefick is a part of the Industrial Workers of the World. He explained; “We’ll unionize anyone in any industry, even the unemployed because everyone needs a union, everyone needs people to stick up for them when time gets tough.” Kennefick is very active in other areas as well, and is always working towards changing the future.

Another notable activist is the president of the Young Liberals and Progressives, Max Jardon. He is a senior who is passionate about LGBTQ rights and explained how schools do not provide extensive protection over students’ rights, “Title IX, which outlines what schools can or can’t do, like discrimination, doesn’t cover sexual orientation, so schools can just do whatever they want to queer students.” He brought up Title IX after he explained how at a recent FHS pep rally there were some offensive jokes about being gay. He was shocked and decided to take action, “I wrote an article for the newspaper about the pep rally and about how microaggressions can contribute to someone feeling less safe at school. We can’t allow publicly endorsed bigotry.”

Publication of the piece was denied by administration due to the fear that it would cause discourse between students at school. Jardon did not give up and personally published his piece on social media. He continues to work on making FHS a safe and fair environment for everyone.

Many students care and want to make a difference, but do not even know where to start. It can be difficult when one is under 18, and in interviews with The Register, students explained what limitations they come across being young. Hendrix lamented, “I don’t have the connections or the time that some people do in the world. People don’t take me as seriously I think as an activist.” Another student expressed that it is hard to feel that she is doing enough while balancing school and friends. Kennefick talked about how sometimes he was not even allowed to be an activist. “Up until I actually turned 18, a lot of groups would not allow me to go on direct action with them when they thought that we might get arrested.” It can be frustrating and discouraging, so how did these students overcome these obstacles?

An old Chinese Proverb eloquently describes how change is brought about: “The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Mason Barnes, a sophomore wisely explained, “Once we realize that no action is too small, we will be able to change the world.” Being active in the community does not have to be an impossible, extravagant task. It can be as easy as writing letters to representatives, joining a club, reading the news, giving back and just standing up for personal beliefs. Kennefick adequately described his opinion on the role of a citizen, “I don’t see any kind of action as a responsibility, except looking out for other people in your community.” It is amazing what people can do when they care about the world around them.

It is truly inspiring to see these young students defy the stereotypes of teenagers, and take action. They display the true meaning of a democracy as they use their voices to stand up for their beliefs. As Hendrix put it, “This is what democracy looks like; it was never meant to be a spectator’s sport.” FHS offers a myriad of opportunities to practice activism through clubs, such as Young Democrats, Young Republicans, Gay Straight Alliance, Young Feminists, and many others. Everyone can make a difference.

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