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    Student Voices: We, the Youth of Generation Z, Are the Needed Changemakers

    By Lyndsey Schlax–

    (Editor’s Note: Teacher Lyndsey Schlax of the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA) launched the nation’s first on-site high school LGBT course in 2015. She still offers that groundbreaking class but is teaching Ethnic Studies this semester. The two subjects often intersect, so in this column her students share their thoughts about both Ethnic Studies and LGBT-related matters, including their concerns, what they have learned in class and more. Here, three pairs of students—with each duo co-writing a piece—share their thoughts about #NeverAgain. All six students are seniors at the SOTA.)

    1. In 1913, over 5,000 women stormed the capital to fight for the right to vote. In 1963, a quarter of a million people participated in the March for Jobs and Freedom. In 1970, Chicago Gay Liberation marched from Bughouse Square to The Water Tower.

    These movements, and countless others, paved the way for us to March for Our Lives on March 24. In the age of the youth movement, many of us forget about the movements that came before us, and the people who led them. From Ida B. Wells to Frank Kameny, the path to activism has been paved by a wide range of incredible leaders.

    Without the movements that came before #ENOUGH, we would have no knowledge of the process that makes political action successful. If Hannah Arendt hadn’t literally written the book on praxis, how would we know how to organize in a productive way?

    As we continue to celebrate the inspired young people who are at the forefront of the March for Our Lives, we must keep in mind the activists who paved the road we are marching down.

    2. In the past days, there have been a lot of personal videos posted by the students involved in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, revealing what happened at the school while the active shooter was in the building. These emotional videos made us think about all of the issues and controversial events that have occurred in America. These relate to civil rights regarding the LGBTQ community, people of color, and all of the young people affected by the related events and drastic changes.

    It saddens us that it took this long for all of these changes to occur, since silence used to be the trend many of us—the youth of today—were taught. Although we are angry and disappointed, we are also very proud of all that we have accomplished so far as a generation, and we look forward to what is yet to come.

    As the school year comes to an end, this class keeps teaching and reminding us of the voice that we have and need to use, not only to stand up for people who have less privilege and no support system, but also for ourselves and for our futures. At this point, our understanding for the struggles so many have endured—whether it was based on identity, sexuality or ethnicity—has improved.

    We may not be able to fully comprehend what others are facing, but at least we know how to be allies and we realize how impactful such roles can be.

    3. Many silenced youth and students have been roused by the latest news to voice their opinions and perspectives on our nation’s largest issues. As Generation Z, we the youth have underappreciated capabilities, so it is about time that we be the needed changemakers that so many others have desired.

    Recently, many students have been trying to organize various protests around the country. At first, there was a lot of confusion about which protests were official. Because of the confusion, some adults have said that teens do not know how to organize. They claim that adolescents do not know how to participate and be involved in politics, or how to voice our opinions professionally.

    Emma Gonzalez, head of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is a survivor of the Parkland school shooting, as well as an advocate for gun control. Gonzalez recently took on the NRA’s Dana Loesch for her stand on gun control and the effects of the NRA regulations on youth today.

    As a bisexual activist, Gonzalez is not new to speaking out and on behalf of others. Activists like herself are the people that today’s youth look up to and aspire to become as part of the growing, ground-shaking movements. She is one of many young activists with whom we can connect, relate to, and understand.

    We, like these activists, are Generation Z: the foundation of America’s upcoming changes that hold promise for creating a brighter, better future for all.

    For more information about the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, please visit