Illinois Valley Community College students might not have been able to participate in last week's nationwide Walk Out due to spring break, but that didn't stop them from organizing a Walk Out of their own Thursday.
The Walk Out, last week's and Thursday's, was organized in remembrance of the 17 victims of a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla, and as a way to bring awareness to violence in schools.
"We all know this is a really complex issue," said Kellsie Edgcomb, a sophomore student who led the march. "The biggest thing for me is security (at IVCC). Not only that, but the senseless gun availability that keeps perpetuating the violence. To add to that is the mental illness that no one wants to talk about. We're here. We are doing what we can. Finally, we're here to honor the 17 lives lost in Parkland, not to mention the others we know about at NIU, Virginia Tech and Columbine."
A crowd of students gathered in the Student Life Center at noon and began their 17-minute march to the courtyard, through the cafeteria and out to the main entrance of the college.
Edgcomb passed around a clipboard to students to sign in and state why they were marching. She planned to present it to school administration as a way to encourage formulation of a plan in case of an emergency.
"We want to know what fires up IVCC students and why we're here," she said. "I would like to see a plan at school. I don't know if there is a plan."
Mason Kannel, a freshman from Ottawa, marched Thursday with his girlfriend. The two are also planning to attend a National March on Saturday in Chicago. Kannel said he was marching to raise awareness and to help support gun legislation.
"It kind of shows that it can happen everywhere," he said. "Everyone should have that same reaction that it could happen to you. It could happen to anyone."
Streator sophomore Anna Oelschlager said she participated to raise awareness "so that everyone can feel safe in their own schools."
Oelschlager said when she attended high school, there was often a sense of foreboding.
"There were always kids that joked around about violence and bomb threats," she said. "It never really happened, but knowing it was possible was scary."
After the students held a moment of silence with placards listing the name of each Parkland victim, the tone changed. The event was organized by the IVCC College Democrats, the English Honor students, Phi Theta Kappa, the Human Service Organization and the Hispanic Leadership Team.
"Get involved," Edgcomb said to the crowd. "Whatever your passion is, get involved."
One student in the crowd echoed "Get involved in your community. If you don't say anything, nobody's going to listen."
"And I may add if your legislators don't listen, than you have every right to vote them out of office," to enthusiastic applause.
"We wanted student involvement first," Edgcomb said. "(Thursday) was the day. Look at all the people that care about this ... I'm really proud of IVCC for this many people showing up. It's so hard to get people involved at the community college level. I would have been happy if 15 to 20 showed up, but this turnout really makes me happy."