Dear Community,

When you think about high school, you think about prom, football games and pep rallies. You think about stressing about the SAT, college applications and grades. You don’t think about fearing for your safety or conducting monthly school shooter drills. Or at least I never did.

My life is filled with dance team, ASB leadership, honors classes, college questions, SAT prep, work and weekly volunteering. Right now, at the peak of my junior year in high school when my mind is already overflowing with a multitude of responsibilities and deadlines, the recent gun violence at schools around the nation has added one more complicated – and scary – piece to my already busy life. When threats of gun violence interfered with my personal ability to attend school and put my education on hold, I knew that this issue had to go to the top of my to-do list.

The idea to create this publication came about while I was talking with my family about the issues at Pacific Grove High School in regards to “Walkout Day.” Like most other schools, students at PGHS were organizing a walkout on March 14 from 10-10:17am to commemorate those killed in Parkland, Florida. Unlike most other schools, however, in the days leading up to the walkout, recurring threats were written on the bathroom claiming the school would be shot up during those 17 minutes. Our school atmosphere was sent into a whirlwind amid a swarm of police, FBI agent interrogations, extreme safety precautions and nightly features on local news channels. Suddenly, this national issue of gun control was hitting very close to home.

While talking with my family (including my dad, Erik Cushman, publisher of the Weekly), I realized that although the feelings of anxiety and fear I was having were foreign to me, not every community is lucky enough to be unaccustomed to the idea of gun violence on campus.

With this in mind, the idea was crafted to create this means of expression to bring together the vast communities within Monterey County. Standing together, writing together and working together, this insert showcases high school students from all different backgrounds with a shared concern for our generation’s future, or lack thereof.

I truly believe the diversity of Monterey County manifests itself in the students of its high schools. Spread over 3,000 square miles, and divided among dozens of school districts, teenagers in Monterey County are a mosaic. Today, the importance of unity in all that diversity is more important than ever. Constantly brought together in competition, both academically and athletically, this project brings high school students together in collaboration. The purpose of this project is to give students a platform to make their voices heard. Voices that, although they come from varied backgrounds, are speaking the same message.

I use “unity” as a word to describe Monterey County’s high schools, however, as you flip through the pages of this publication you will see different opinions. While the majority of students who contributed argue for gun-control, there are some exceptions. While writing this, I asked myself if the word unity was the appropriate word to center my letter around when the purpose of this project was to reflect the ideas of all students. Now, after looking at the tangible representation of students’ passion, I stand by my declaration of unity: Students are concerned for their future and are willing to use their voices to protect that future. Not every voice in these pages has the same opinion, but there is unity in that they each want their voice to be heard.

It was a challenge to get the ball rolling with this project. Having no prior connection to any of these schools besides my own, the first obstacle was to find the appropriate person to solicit with my idea. After scrolling through numerous staff directories and leaving messages in many voicemail boxes, the next challenge was to convince teachers of the legitimacy of the project and encourage them to reach out to their own students. It wasn’t until the students themselves became involved that my idea showed its first signs of palpability. I began getting more and more submissions from students who wrote with more passion and candor then I could have hoped. The entries were clearly results of inspired students, motivated by this opportunity to speak out to a larger audience. Their excitement energized the project, and I quickly realized my initial fears of disinterest were misplaced.

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It is with much gratitude to the willing students and cooperative teachers that I present this final product. This publication is just one small piece of a rapidly spreading movement of awareness, but no matter how small, this piece will impact the lives of the people who take the time to read what we have to say. It is time for students’ voices to be heard.

To read submissions from participating schools, access our special e-edition here

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