Demonstrating the possibilities

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TF South walkout organizer Jadyn Newman reflects on making a difference

by Katie Arvia

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Over 1,000 students participated in the March 14 demonstration at TF South. (Photo: Katie Arvia)
LANSING, Ill. (March 24, 2018) – On March 14, 2018, students at Thornton Fractional South High School joined a nationwide walkout in protest of gun violence. Similar events took place at TF North in Calumet City as well as the Center for Academics and Technology, also in Calumet City. The Lansing Police Department coordinated with the schools to ensure student safety.

Organized by junior Jadyn Newman, the TF South walkout saw over 1,000 students participate in the 17-minute demonstration. Reactions from the community have been mixed, which Newman said she expected.

“Before the walkout, there were so many people who reached out to me to wish us luck, congratulate us, and tell me they were on our side. We had overwhelming support from parents and members of the community who came out and walked out with us,” Newman said. “However, as the video of my speech circulated, there were many who were, for some odd reason, outraged by the idea of students peacefully protesting.”

Administrative support

The walkout was supported by TF South principal Jacob Gourley, the school board, and the administration of District 215. Unlike other schools in the area and across the country, TF South students who chose to walk out were not subject to disciplinary action, more was participation mandatory—students who chose not to join the walkout could stay inside the school with teacher supervision.

Douglas Schlesser and Hannah Berridge, TF South teachers and alum, were big supporters of the walkout and encouraged Newman to “make it happen.” Newman also cites classmate Mason Henning and several other friends as supporters of the event.

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TF South students support each other during the March 14 demonstration. (Photo: Katie Arvia)

Inspiring each other

A platform that the students currently use is an Instagram account created by Newman (@tfsjustice) that allows them to “discuss the issues in [their] school and look for students to make a difference.” This was one of the main avenues that the organizers used to promote and advertise the walkout.

Inspiration for the walkout came when Newman saw the impact that the Parkland shooting survivors were making across the country.

“Personally, this was important to me because I realized, with the Parkland incident, that students are capable of much more than I’d thought,” Newman said. “I wanted to emphasize to students the avenues for engagement. I wanted to make sure students knew it is possible and easy to get involved. Depending on the situations we face in the future, other demonstrations such as this may be important.”

Newman, who hopes to make a difference in the lives of others in the future, says that she is proud of her fellow students. She and her fellow organizers are “ecstatic” with the level of participation.
“Many need to simply understand that we aren’t some ‘rebellious teenagers’ who are protesting simply to spite authority,” Newman said. “As you can tell from the turnout, we care about this issue. Anyone who tries to say otherwise just doesn’t understand how professional we were while going about this.”

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