March-April 2019 | Parenting

Making Their Marks

Meet the winners of Bethesda Magazine’s 2019 Extraordinary Teen Awards

 

Photo by Edgar Artiga.

 

Dani Miller

Senior, Winston Churchill High School

Following the mass shooting that killed 17 students and staff members in Parkland, Florida, in early 2018, Dani Miller wanted to take part in the National School Walkout to protest gun violence. Dani, then a junior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, couldn’t find anyone at the school organizing a walkout, so she did it herself.

Within a couple of weeks, she had teamed up with students from the county to form a group now known as MoCo for Change. The group orchestrated a walkout and a march on the Capitol, soliciting the donation of a fleet of buses and hundreds of Metro cards to transport nearly 3,000 teens. MoCo for Change has remained active under her leadership, holding voter registration drives, participating in rallies and protests, and lobbying for gun control.

Time magazine chose Dani, who lives in Potomac, to be part of its iconic “Guns in America” cover last fall. She received the 2018 Peacemaker of the Year Award from the Metro D.C.-Baltimore chapter of Pax Christi, an organization that promotes nonviolence. “It bothered me that no one [at Churchill] was doing anything after Parkland, so I thought, ‘Why not me?’ ” says Dani, 18, who is co-president of MoCo for Change.

She is also president of Churchill’s Slam Poetry Club, and frequently performs with the DC Youth Slam Team.

Her academic tutor, Llacey Simmons, says Dani has inspired her and her family to become more active in their community and to get more involved in issues they care about. After Simmons’ 6-year-old son listened to a recording of one of Dani’s speeches, he raised more than $1,000 to help the homeless by calling friends and family, and through requests for donations on his mother’s Facebook page. “He was inspired to see someone ‘young like him,’ and wants to be just like Dani when he grows up,” Simmons says. “She’s not just a model
A student—she’s a force for change.”

Dani will attend Pitzer College in Claremont, California. She hopes to become a documentary filmmaker.