The high school student activist group, MoCo Students for Change, welcomed the coming school year Friday with a fundraiser at the headquarters for Montgomery County Public Schools, announcing its priorities for the upcoming year, rolling out a new website and engaging in a question-and-answer session with county executive candidate Marc Elrich.
MoCo Students for Change formed last spring to advocate for more gun control after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. This school year, co-founder Michael Solomon said the group has broadened its scope to include efforts to increase voter registration and to advocate for MCPS to redistrict its schools to decrease racial and economic disparities. This month, every high school in the county will have members from the Montgomery County Board of Elections on site for two days a week. Under Maryland law, students may register to vote if they are at least 16. They can also sign up to serve as an election judge in November.
Solomon, a junior at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, said the group will partner with the organizers of the March for Our Lives held in Washington, D.C., on March 24 to stage a “die-in” on Capitol Hill in November to renew their call for gun control. The group’s push to redistrict the MCPS boundaries will be a long-term effort that will likely last until the spring, he said. In an interview, he said he was confident that the group’s momentum from last school year would last.
“We’re made of kids in Montgomery County who care,” he said. “And when you have this many kids who care about the issues, you’ll have consistent momentum.”
Solomon said he had not imagined at the beginning of 2017-2018 school year that such a group would take shape, but the Parkland shooting changed that.
“Our platform expanded and kinda came out of nowhere,” he said. “We were just a bunch of kids who cared about an issue, and we were just like, let’s organize this event. So through that, an actual sustainable organization came to be.”
Co-founder Dani Miller, a senior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, said the group will use its website and social media to help organize events. Money raised from the fundraiser will help maintain the site, combined with donations from group members. Mandalay Restaurant & Café in Silver Spring partnered with MoCo Students for Change to help with Friday’s fundraiser.
Throughout the evening, students performed songs and spoken word poetry, which touched on themes of race, socioeconomic status and gun violence. Elrich, a County Council member from Takoma Park, then told the students of his own days as a student activist who marched on Washington to protest the Vietnam War.
“There was a time when I really thought we [students] would change the world,” he said. “Changing society doesn’t happen with one summer. It doesn’t happen with one protest. But it’s something you have to do. It’s something that’s your place in the world. So I’m really impressed to see you all here on a summer night.”
Later, a student asked Elrich what could be done to improve racial and economic segregation throughout MCPS, which he answered by calling on county leaders to make affordable housing a priority.
“You can shift the boundaries west of Connecticut Avenue all you want,” [but] you’re not going to fundamentally change the balance in the schools,” he said. “So I feel like we’re in it for the long term. You have to be willing to put affordable housing where we haven’t put it.”
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