NewsPinellas County


Tampa Bay students walk out of class, demand change

Local students take part in national walkout
Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-14 18:25:11-04

They're only teenagers, but they're already leaders. Jenaka Ducey and Markos Kampouroglou are the  president and vice president of their student government at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs.

Wednesday they joined a national movement to remember the victims of the Parkland Shooting. Across the country, students walked out of class exactly one month after a gunman killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

PHOTOS | Tampa Bay Area students participate in national walkout to remember Parkland victims

National walkouts at schools expected Wednesday

"We just want to put awareness out there," said  Kampouroglou. "I am really proud of all of the students across the nation that are inspired to do these events and rallies to help create a movement to address this issue."

"I feel that it is incredible that the students are actually rising up and joining together as one. So this day is definitely something that is going to go down in history," said Ducey.

Pinellas County District officials say thousands of students took part in the walkout and are taking a neutral approach. They did not discipline kids for leaving class. 

The walkouts didn't revolve around politics and the national gun debate.

"It's not something that we have touched base about," said Ducey.

Hundreds of students also walked out of class at Clearwater High School, where the students focused on unity. The teens tell ABC Action News unless our nation comes together, nothing will change. 

Caitlin Gumiela, a teacher's aide at Clearwater High School joined the students. Gumiela was very close with one of the Parkland shooting victims, Meadow Pollack. "It’s sad and it’s horrifying knowing that I’m never going to be able to see what she could have been," Gumiela explained.

Wednesday she was joined by more than half of the students from Clearwater High School, who filled 3/4ths of the stands at the football stadium on campus. 

Maddi Ouimette, the senior class president at Clearwater High School says it was an emotional experience. “I started crying a little. It was powerful that everyone came together."

Together, the students hope to join teens across the nation in starting a movement. “I hope it sends a message to students that no matter what kind of change or difference you want to make, you can start right at your school level and you can make a difference and your involvement does matter," Ouimette explained.

While some students push for universal background checks or assault weapon bans in other parts of the state and nation, many Tampa Bay teens say they’re fighting for something else: For schools to become safer and the community to find common ground. “I honestly don’t know much about the political side of it, I just know that when we all come together like this we can make change happen," Clearwater High School junior Lindsey Belcher added. 

The students hope to send a message that their generation will be heard….and won’t be underestimated. “I want people here to walk away with this: You do have a chance, don’t waste it," said Clearwater High School junior William Wallace.

Across the county, hundreds of thousands of kids will join together again on March 24th for the  “March For Our Lives," which is taking place in Washington D.C., in Tampa Bay and in communities across the U.S.