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Safety & Discipline

Pittsburgh students organizing to join national gun-control movement

Jamie Martines
| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, 3:33 p.m.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez reacts during a speech at a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Students announced plans for a 'March for our Lives' in Washington, D.C., on March 24, with other marches planned across the country.
AFP/Getty Images
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez reacts during a speech at a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Students announced plans for a 'March for our Lives' in Washington, D.C., on March 24, with other marches planned across the country.
In this file photo taken on February 17, 2018 Protesters hold signs at a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Students announced plans for a 'March for our Lives' in Washington, D.C., on March 24, with other marches planned across the country.
AFP/Getty Images
In this file photo taken on February 17, 2018 Protesters hold signs at a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Students announced plans for a 'March for our Lives' in Washington, D.C., on March 24, with other marches planned across the country.

High school and college students in the Pittsburgh area are planning to march in solidarity with their peers across the country on March 24. The student-led marches are a call for gun control in the wake of a South Florida school shooting last week.

Social media pages on Facebook and Twitter for the Pittsburgh march were launched this week by Shady Side Academy junior Erin Simard and her sister Emma Simard, a freshman.

"We saw what happened in Parkland, Florida, and we were extremely moved by the actions of the students," Erin Simard said of the shooting last Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 17 people died.

The Pittsburgh march will be modeled after similar marches planned for Washington, D.C., and other major cities, which are being organized by students from the Florida school.

"It's our obligation as fellow high-schoolers to assist them in their efforts to create change," Simard added.

Local college students like Scott Friedman, a sophomore at Chatham University, also have started organizing.

"Pittsburgh is a large city for a lot of college students, so I thought it could make a large statement," Friedman said. "Why not use that to our advantage?"

Friedman, a 19-year-old political science major, said he is helping high school students like Erin and Emma connect with local government representatives and organizations that might be able to support their work.

Friedman grew up in Pittsburgh's South Hills and attended Baldwin High School. He still has friends in high school and wants their views to be heard — especially since many of them are not of voting age. It would be a shame if area college students didn't use their connections with professors and administrators to amplify the voices of their younger peers, he said.

The Pittsburgh Student Government Council, which is made up of representatives from student governments from 10 colleges and universities across the Greater Pittsburgh region, also is involved.

"As a leader in education, southwestern Pennsylvania has an obligation to stand with our younger colleagues from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and across the country," council President Danielle Wicklund, 19, a sophomore accounting major at Robert Morris University, wrote in a letter Monday. Friedman, of Chatham, co-signed the letter as well.

Wicklund noted that Friedman suggested the idea to organize an event to her earlier this week. She agreed that it was their responsibility as college students to both set an example for their younger peers as well as to make an impact on the community.

"That's what we're supposed to do as citizens," she told the Tribune-Review Tuesday.

"I feel that if we don't get involved with this issue, it's just going to keep going on," Wicklund said. "When is the time we're going to talk about gun control?"

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted support of the March for Our Lives marches.

"Because 'There is Nothing We Can Do' is not a solution to Domestic Terrorism against America's Children," Peduto tweeted.

It also included a link to a GoFundMe page set up by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The fundraising account will support a march in Washington as well as victims' funds, according to the GoFundMe page.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at jmartines@tribweb.com, 724-850-2867 or on Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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