Residents and students gathered in March for the national March For Our Lives event. (DHI Media/File Photo/ Kirsten Barnhart)
Residents and students gathered in March for the national March For Our Lives event. (DHI Media/File Photo/ Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Nationally, the death of 17 people in a Florida school shooting sparked outrage. When threats of school violence hit closer to home later in February, many students wanted to use their voices to speak out and demand change.

On March 24, a nation-wide march was planned. While marches and protests rarely make their way to Van Wert, one Crestview student wanted to make sure that the county that was affected by a school violence scare just a month prior was included.

The local March For Our lives was planned by Hannah Bouillon who hoped to get people with many different ideas together to discuss what changes could be made, if any.

On the day of the event, over 40 people marched from the YWCA to Fountain Park. The nonpartisan event included speeches from students from Crestview, Lincolnview, and Van Wert, as well as a teacher from a Lima school and a teacher from Paulding. Topics ranged from mental health to personal experiences to current gun laws. Sheriff Tom Riggenbach also spoke about what to do if faced with an active shooter.

“I have grown up in a world where school shootings are a common occurrence, and I, along with many others, have grown sick of it,” said Bouillon at the March 24 rally. “I’m sick of the violence, I’m sick of the death, I’m sick of the arguing, and I’m sick of being told I’m too young to make a change.”

Just a week prior, on March 14, students around the nation participated in a nation-wide school walkout which called for action to be taken to make schools safer and to reduce gun violence.

Nearly half of Van Wert High School students participated in the walkout, while only a few students from Lincolnview decided to participate.

Knowing that there was a nation-wide plan for a walkout, Van Wert City Schools worked with their students to give them three safe options for the day: to walk outside in a designated area with a police presence, to allow them go to the gym, or to allow students to remain in the classroom and continue the class period as normal.

During the 17 minute walkout, which honored the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting, freshman-at-the-time Isabella Smith gave a speech about what students can do to reduce school violence while her peers looked on.

“I want to see a change,” said Smith at the March walkout. “Not just in the government, but in the local students. What we do every day does affect other people, and I feel like some people don’t think about that enough.”

At Lincolnview, three students participated in the walkout.

One student, Miah Miller, an eighth-grader at Lincolnview this past spring, felt that despite only a few students participating and little talk on whether other students planned to participate, it was important for her to voice her opinion and take a stance.

“I felt the need to be a part of it because people always say that something needs to happen and they do nothing about it,” said Miller in March. “If you want a different result, you have to do something different in order to get a change.”

While many students who participated in the march and walkout had an idea on how to reduce violence, one thing remained true for them all – none of them could remember a time before school shootings – something they hope to see change for future generations.