CEO Irma Zardoya on the National School Walkout

Something beautiful and inspirational happened yesterday in schools across America. Students were given a voice, and the world listened.

In the world of educational leadership, we all know how empowering it is to have a platform to make change. When I was a principal and a superintendent, I used my position to change classroom instruction and district policies in ways that would better serve our students. I see school and district leaders doing that every day across the country.

Yesterday, I was proud of the many school and district leaders who leverage their leadership role to give young people voice by getting out of students’ way and letting them lead as part of the ENOUGH: National School Walkout. How better for students to learn about civics and government and the power of voice than to actively engage in democracy? These students are our future, after all.

Throughout the day we heard from Leadership Academy alums on how their students were leading. In one middle school in Queens, 7th and 8th graders, with the support of school staff, organized a moving memorial in their school auditorium. One by one, students displayed the names of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, extinguishing a candle to honor each person lost. Students were then given the chance to question the administration on its plans for preventing shootings at their school. A school in Jersey City held a "walk in." The names of the 17 victims were read out and then students gathered in the auditorium, where 17 students formed a heart surrounded by a circle of middle schoolers. Students in Newburgh, NY, planted 17 flowers, and throughout the week schools are hosting town hall meetings for students to debate and discuss school and gun safety. Another school held a moment of silence, after which students wrote letters to President Trump and local representatives about their views on gun safety. 

Our nation is in crisis. As educational leaders, let’s use this time as an opportunity to engage our communities in a common purpose that ensures the safety, health, and well-being of our students.

About the Author — Irma Zardoya

Irma Zardoya is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the NYC Leadership Academy.

Yesterday, I was proud of the many school and district leaders who leverage their leadership role to give young people voice by getting out of students’ way and letting them lead as part of the ENOUGH: National School Walkout.

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