(originally published 2/16/17 on thecspn.com and in the february edition of the mhs chronicle)
Students at Mason High School want to be heard, and they’re willing to travel great distances to make their voices known.
Senior Hannah Geiger can’t vote, but she can influence voters. On January 27, 2017, Geiger traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the March for Life, a gathering of anti-abortion advocates.
Geiger said attending the march gave her insight into her role as a citizen.
“There are a lot of young people who wait (to) get involved, but it was an issue that’s important to me, and I really saw the importance of my voice,” Geiger said. “You don’t have to wait – these marches are a way to make a difference before you can vote.”
Senior Lexie Wenzel went to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. on January 21. Wenzel said that making the trip to the Capitol set it apart from other experiences.
“We saw going to D.C. as a really exciting opportunity,” Wenzel said. “There were a bunch of fantastic speakers, and the size was so drastically different from anything close to us. D.C. is the heart of where all the decision-making is happening, so it’s really surreal to see the White House and (other) symbols of democracy when you’re marching.”
Wenzel said that though the march was positive, the differing views resulted in the potential for conflict.
“We walked into one restaurant, and it was completely divided,” Wenzel said. “It’s D.C., so it’s a political place. But there, most of the customers either had a sign (for the Women’s March) or were wearing a Trump hat. There was always a fear in the back of my mind–there could have been an attack on a massive scale.”
Geiger said that marchers may face opposition, which can make it difficult.
“There’s always a lot of pro-choice people outside the Supreme Court, and there was this one instance where some protesters were in the crowd shouting anti-Catholic things,” Geiger said. “With any march, it’s kind of nerve wracking. You know you’re going to be the bigger number, but it’s scary to see people who disagree there because you aren’t sure of their intentions.”
Geiger said her convition in her cause made dealing with dissenters easier.
“It’s always difficult to see someone who disagrees with your beliefs, and I think it can be easy to cave to that,” Geiger said. “But I felt strongly that what I stood for was right, and I was secure enough in my views to be able to defend myself.”
Wenzel said that involvement in marches has grown due to recent political events.
“This election, protests have become a really big way for people to participate,” Wenzel said. “It’s important to show what you believe in, and make it so the elected officials can see that there are people being impacted by what they choose.”
Junior Almas Malik attended a march at the Mason Community Center on January 29, where members of the town rallied together in support of a local Muslim woman. Malik said that an event so close to home has changed the way she views the community.
“The Mason community really rallied at this protest,” Malik said. “We saw the support of the city and that was amazing.”
Pre-calculus and Algebra I teacher Bonnie White also attended the protest in Mason. White said that she hoped her attendance at the protest would spread a message of acceptance.
“We’re all the same–everybody has a right to good treatment and education,” White said. “For me, I just wanted to show my students that everyone is welcome in my classroom and in the community of Mason. Their voices are being heard.”
Geiger said that attending a march can help foster conversations about critical topics.
“I think that going to marches and sharing with others really opens up discussions,” Geiger said. “People start to talk about important issues in a peaceful way. They’re genuinely interested about it; they don’t just want to fight about politics.”
Malik said that the ability to make change isn’t something Americans should fear.
“If your government isn’t listening to you, they should be,” Malik said. “It’s a democracy. It’s your right and your duty to say something.”