Race and Equity

STUDENT VOICE: ‘The youth movement extends beyond gun violence’

A high school program that uses history to make a difference

Suraya Buffong

Suraya Buffong, 17, a senior at Hutchison School in Memphis, Tennessee.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Students are the future. My generation has opinions, a voice and power at our fingertips.

We use social media, political protests and other methods to share our views with our peers and with anyone else who will listen.

We start movements and lead teach-ins. We use technology, our opportunities and our privileges to effect change in society.

The March for Our Lives protest against gun violence galvanized a population of young people to say #Enough and #NeverAgain to gun violence.

But the youth movement extends beyond gun violence.

Related: Teaching kids how battles about race from 150 years ago mirror today’s conflicts

Marching for our lives means that we are marching to be heard and not to be overlooked. Young people must continue to use their voices as platforms for change, and in Memphis we have been doing just that.

For the past five years, I have been a member of the Facing History and Ourselves student leadership group in which we discuss issues, their connections to history and how we, as young people, can be part of the change we seek.

We organize teach-in discussions with students and adults. We discuss issues we learn about through our Facing History work and create a space to discuss challenges. The main goals are to give other kids a safe space to speak their minds and to teach them about historical and current issues.

We certainly support our peers who are trying to end both gun violence and the proliferation of guns in the United States. There is no doubt that guns in America need more regulation. (I am not saying that we should rid the country of a right it has had since 1791. I am saying that this right is being abused by people who believe they are fighting to maintain it.)

But we are also focusing on the right to vote.

At 17, I am not old enough to vote, but that isn’t stopping me from sharing my views. It’s also not stopping me from teaching others about the importance of voting.

Until the time we get to vote, we need to continue having discussions such as these in order to be active participants in society.

Many students may not feel confident enough to share their views with adults or even talk to their peers.

I would encourage them to speak to faculty or even start a positive movement online to educate others on issues they deem important. I want students to know that we must support one another, and we must educate ourselves on the events that occur in our society, so we can be the ones to effect change.

Related: Harvard Law grad helps low-income kids aim high

Many generations of youth have fought for what they believe in. This generation can do the same. Our voices can and will be heard, but it is up to us to put ourselves out there and support one another.

My peers, teachers and administrators have encouraged me to have confidence in what I believe. They share the belief that I, along with my peers, can influence others and come up with viable solutions to long-standing problems, like gun violence, in our nation.

Through these individuals and Facing History, we have learned to believe that students are the future, and all we have to do is take the first step.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.

Suraya Buffong is a senior at Hutchison School in Memphis, Tennessee. She has been a student in the Facing History and Ourselves program for five years.

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Suraya Buffong

Suraya Buffong is a senior at Hutchison School in Memphis, Tennessee. She has been a part of the Facing History and Ourselves’ program for students… See Archive

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