Florida shooting infuses student activism in Alameda

A community event organized by Alameda teenagers took on new urgency Wednesday night, amid national debate over gun reform and school safety.

Three Encinal High School juniors organized the gathering, billed as "Political and Proud.

They planned it well before Florida's mass shooting of a week ago.

But the guest speakers and audience clearly had the tragedy on their minds.

"Every generation has to fight for freedom," said keynote speaker Pamela Price, quoting Coretta Scott King.

"This baton has been passed to you."  

The gymnasium at Encinal was bustling with about two hundred people- learning how youth, especially girls- can find their path in leadership and politics.   

Attorney Price told the teenagers not to give up on themselves.

She was a foster child growing up, who went on to Yale University.   

 "So I'm here to tell you young people, fill out the application okay? Fill it out, sign it, send it in!" 

Price went on to share how her ivy league education was marred by a professor, who offered to raise her grade. 

"And then he said, 'will you make love to me ?' And I thought, uh no."

That experience helped launched Price's legal career fighting sexual harassment and discrimination. 

Other mentors stepped to the stage to offer similar advice, noting young people have always been on the forefront of societal change.

"They're young but they absolutely know what they're talking about," Encinal coach and government teacher Kevin Gorham told KTVU.

Gorham says his students become noticeably more engaged after Donald Trump's election, and it's even more acute now. 

"They're watching their partners in Florida. They see that if they get involved and are politically aware, that voices matter and people are listening and the time is now to make change."  

The theme "Political and Proud" was launched on Facebook by a teen In Connecticut several months ago.

"The representation of women in politics is incredibly low," Encinal student Lily Conable told KTVU, alongside the other two organizers Sarah Skaff, and Anisya Lustig-Ellison.

Planning the event, the students couldn't know how tragedy in Florida would put teens front and center.

"I personally am very inspired by that," said Lustig-Ellison. 

But gun safety is an issue they have an enduring stake in.    

"This hits so close to home for all of us. This is something we've all thought about," said Conable.

Young people were given an opportunity to sign up with activist organizations and register to vote. 

They were urged to speak- and act- on the issues they care about. 

"You guys are woke," said Price, in closing. 

"You are woke and you have to stay woke. You have the power to wake up this country!" 

Students at Encinal plan to join in a national school walkout on Wednesday March 14.

At 10 a.m., in every time zone, students, teachers and administrators plan to walk out for 17 minutes, one minute for each person killed in Parkland.