NHI alumna leads March for Our Lives in McAllen
On the anniversary of the Columbine shooting — and in salute to students who are making their voices heard in rallies across the nation today — we’re featuring this article by Valeria Arguelles (Class of 2019, International Baccalaureate at Lamar Academy in McAllen; 2016 Texas Great Debate, 2017 National LDZ, and Mock Trial Director for NHI at RGV), about her experience in organizing the March for Our Lives rally in McAllen last month.
I remember not so long ago going to third block and hearing there had been a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Immediately, my heart sunk. I looked around at my classmates, feeling a pang of fear not simply for myself, but for them — a fear of not knowing what could happen to our school and if there was anything that could stop it. The thought was ephemeral, and I pushed it away. I opted not to think of the tragic events.
Later, the thought popped up again: Voiced by a survivor from the shooting. Students my age spoke out with their opinions, advocating for change. I was inspired to take action. I told my teacher, Mrs. Tamez, about the March for Our Lives being held in Washington, DC, and she immediately lent her support. She suggested I start on the project as soon as possible. With a quick text to Andrea Ramirez, another NHIer and one of my best friends, as well as with the approval of my principal, the boat began to sail. That was all it took: A motive, a supporter, and a friend.
When Andrea and I first decided to coordinate this march, we had no idea how immense the turnout would be. I had composed a song for the survivors but did not know I would be singing it in front of 500 people. Many of the marchers were friends and teachers, but an even greater number were complete strangers. At 9:30 in the morning, we marched through the streets of McAllen yelling “Not one more!” and “Never again!” We spoke to people from stores, invited others that were already on the streets, and created an atmosphere of opportunity and change that followed us southward towards City Hall.
Upon arriving at there, we came together to honor the seventeen victims of the Parkland shooting with a moment of silence. Quiet as we were, I heard the beating of our hearts in unison of purpose. This had to do with the right to a safe education — a basic human right. We marched for safety. We marched for freedom from the threat of losing our lives at school. In that moment of purpose and organization, I felt complete. I felt empowered. I thought: Every student should feel this way. I loved that the hundreds of people behind me and throughout the nation were the culmination of the efforts by teenagers like me: Passionate students speaking their minds with the goal of improving their quality of life.
The immense support I received for March for Our Lives from my peers, my friends, and my administrators at NHI was greater than any I’ve ever received. When I say I’m sixteen, adults are quick to turn away or dismiss my statement as false or juvenile. But with them, and with those that attended over that weekend it was different. We created a space for our voices and garnered support for our cause. The community in turn supported us and for that, I am eternally grateful. If there is one thing that I am certain of, it’s that we are the future and we deserve to be heard.