It’s Been One Year Since I Led a Student Gun Protest. Are Things Better Now?

One year ago, Kenia Alonzo organized a walkout at her school. Has anything changed since then?

By Kenia Alonzo

My name is Kenia Alonzo. I am 19 years old and I am from Albuquerque, N.M. I am a member of Generation Justice, New Mexico’s premiere, award-winning youth media project, which trains youth to harness the power of media. I am Navajo and Two Who Came to the Water, I am born for the Tangle People. My maternal grandparents are the Black Streak People and my paternal grandparents are the Zuni People. I am currently studying natural resources at a tribal college.  

In March of 2018, I organized a successful walkout at my high school and participated in planning Albuquerque’s March For Our Lives. I was 17 years old, a senior, and scared to go to school. I wasn’t the only student who was scared that I might not go home one day. After having open discussions with other students, we all realized that our anxieties were sprouting from the same fear: a school shooting. We weren’t alone in this, either. Students all over the country were experiencing the same nervousness when walking into class every day or hearing the fire alarm go off and wondering if it’s a drill or a part of someone’s plan to hurt us. Honestly, it sucked having to worry about my friends and homework, then having to worry about dying at school. These conditions made it difficult to focus and to feel safe anywhere but home. We saw horrible things on the news every day. It was like we couldn’t have a proper mourning period for one tragedy before the next happened, each one seemingly more horrific and extreme than the last.  

Unfortunately, more than a year later, it feels the same, if not worse. The lack of humanity that we see scares us. Everyone seems a little jumpier than before. Sometimes everyone goes quiet when a door slams a little too loud and sounds like something deadlier. I still come up with escape routes when I am in new surroundings. Not because I want to, but because I feel the need to survive when the world feels like it’s getting bigger and scarier each day. The fear that comes with a different shooting every month is draining and it’s important to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally.  

There are many different ways to do self-care and it’s important to know what works for you. For me, I had the opportunity and privilege to unplug and take a breather for the summer doing conservation work at the Grand Canyon National Park. It didn’t fix everything in the world, but I felt better. That was my priority because it was an important step towards healing for me. I know everyone can’t just take a break, even when they need it most. It is so, so, so important to join protests and to offer help in the ways that you can, but you also need to know your limits.  

I wish this was more positive. I really wish that I could just say, “Yay! The world is better and there’s no need to fight or fear!” But we don’t have our happy ending yet. This movement is ongoing and it still needs your support. We need a change in this country. We need leaders who listen to us and work for us. We need more love and compassion and humanity. I know it’s difficult in this climate, but that just means we need to keep going. Please help fight for the change that we deserve.  A version of this essay was originally published in Future Focused Education.