“We need to start being the change:” Conifer students participate in walkout against gun violence

Conifer Students Participate in April 5 National Walkout to demand legislative change


Carly Potter

Senior Ella Johnson speaks at the CHS walkout. “We should not have to, at the beginning of every school year, create in our minds evacuation plans,” Johnson said in her speech.

From 12:00 to 12:20 pm on April 5 Conifer High School students gathered in the auxiliary commons to demand action against gun violence.


“I want school to be a place where [students] can be safe, but they can’t be safe if there’s a threat of gun violence,” senior Jazz Hennes said.


Jazz and Basil Hennes organized the CHS walkout, joining students from across the nation. The event was started by the Nonprofit group Students Demand Action, sprouting from recent shootings at Denver East High School and in Nashville, Tennessee.


“We’ve lived with this for so long, so many of us are traumatized from school shootings, even if we have never been in one, because we have to live with this thought and this idea that it could happen at any time,” Jazz Hennes said in his speech during the event.

Senior Basil Hennes (left) stands with a sign that reads “Schools should be safe places.” (Maya Dawson)


The event was open to any student who wanted to speak, and topics ranged from students worried about their younger siblings to those worried about their futures in college.


“I thought that after I graduated high school it was going to get better, but then there was the shooting at Montana State University and I don’t know if I’m ever going to be safe,” senior Ella Johnson said. 


Other students shared more personal connections to gun violence in schools. Freshman Aida Keith’s sister attended Fitzsimmons Middle School, which shares a building with Platte Canyon High School, when the shooting at Platte took place. Her sister was in eighth grade at the time of the attack.


Conifer students react to speakers at the walkout. “Every time we have a fire drill I’m scared, because what if it’s not a real drill?” Basil Hennes said. (Maya Dawson)

“My mom and dad thought that they were going to lose their child that day,” Keith said. 


After the Columbine shooting, schools across the nation implemented protocols to defend against the threat of gun violence. CHS performs an active shooter drill annually, where classes practice locking doors, turning off lights, and huddling in safe areas of the classroom.


Despite these protocols, gun violence continues to increase. This year, in a span of three months, there have been an estimated 96 school shootings, with a total of 75 fatalities. Last year there were a total of 303 shootings and twenty years ago (in 2003) that number was just 32. 


“Everybody that goes to school in the United States is a victim of gun violence,” Johnson said.

Students listen to peer speakers at the gun violence walkout. “We should not have to go to school and fear for our lives. We’re supposed to learn about arithmetic, not how to keep ourselves safe from a gun,” freshman Aida Keith said. (Maya Dawson)