We’ve All Been Shaken–Teens Are Using Their Voices to Awaken!

Dara LevanBlog2 Comments

Let’s travel back in time and visit a town called North Miami Beach. The year is 1986. A student with thick, curly hair and curious, eager brown eyes stood with her classmates on a musty cafeteria stage. This young girl proudly sang Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” It is her 6th grade graduation from Sabal Palm Elementary school. That young, innocent girl was me.

In the 1980s, my hometown was a sweet, serene city. Teenagers hung out at The Bagel Bar, Denny’s, the 163rd street mall, and baseball fields. You could even walk or bike home from school alone. The biggest worry for a teen then was an upcoming test or what outfit to wear the next day. Does this sound familiar?

Parkland has a similar vibe as North Miami Beach did decades ago. Many of my friends have moved west to raise their children in this peaceful, family-friendly town. Until February 14th, the kids and adults who live there felt secure. Children ought to feel safe in their cocoons as they morph into young adults. Now life as they knew it has been forever altered.

Even if you don’t reside in South Florida, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has rapidly become a familiar name. We are all being flooded with horrifying, heart-wrenching images. We have all directly or indirectly been impacted. Nearly every headline throughout the nation includes some reference to MSD victims and survivors.

Social media is swarming like a hive of hornets. I could rant about gun control. I really want to. I could write for hours about mental health and how all of our trusted systems failed us — government, law enforcement, and more. But I will refrain. You’ve already been bombarded and stung from various angles. We are all emotionally rocked by this tragedy.

Today I want to focus on the future, and what we can do rather than fuel the pervasive rage. And most of all, I want to pause and acknowledge these fierce, brave kids. They have truly captivated my heart.

On February 21st, the couch coaxed me, and the television screen beckoned. I rarely watch media broadcasts; I prefer to read the news for numerous reasons. I don’t even recall reaching for the remote. Suddenly, the CNN town hall filled the screen. In between speakers, my fingers took on a life of their own. I scanned Facebook, which became a frenzied, busy beehive. I unfortunately felt more more stings than honey.

The teens who spoke at the town hall took my breath away. I say this not only as a mother, but also as a speech therapist. So my professional background as well as my heart fused and fired up. Their courage, clarity, and resilience infused my heart with hope and awe. Their pure, passionate words and fiery, determined demeanors made a collective commitment: This must and will change.

These young survivors are raw. They witnessed murder and heard blasts of gunfire. I cannot, nor can ANY of us, truly imagine what they must be processing right now. They are hurting. They are petrified. They are angry. And they’ve thankfully found and are using their voices. They’re rousing our nation from an apathetic slumber.

We sometimes need to be shaken to awaken. If these teens must push back, speak up, and be a bit brash, I am grateful. To those who are judging these spirited souls, I encourage you to pause for a moment.  What if this was YOUR child? They are not adults. They do not have our life experiences yet.

Perhaps you can attempt to take their perspective. Try to look through their lens before you quickly criticize. They’re demanding that the adults, the leaders of our country, listen and act now. And in less than a month, change is already on the horizon. Conversations, boycotts, marches, and more are amplifying awareness. I feel strongly that compassion, empathy, kindness, and support are crucial at this time.

They’re mobilizing and igniting a movement. It breaks my heart that so many lives have been taken. But I am hopeful and inspired as these bold, eloquent teens continue the mission of the woman’s name on their high school: Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

She was a persistent, intelligent activist who unapologetically spoke her truth. Douglas brazenly and candidly fought for social justice through speeches, writing, and lobbying. This generation of outspoken, unrelenting teens would unquestionably make her proud. 

Douglas remarked, “Speak up. Learn to talk clearly and forcefully in public. Speak simply and not too long at a time…be a nuisance where it counts, but don’t be a bore at any time…do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action.”

The journey has just begun. As Douglas said, “There is always the need to carry on.” I am inspired by these young activists. Continue your protests and proclamations. I’m crying with you. I’m cheering for you. I believe in you. Keep marching forward and don’t give up. I will walk beside you in Parkland on March 24th. 


“Teach them well and let them lead the way…I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow. If I fail, if I succeed, at least I lived as I believe.” –Whitney Houston

2 Comments on “We’ve All Been Shaken–Teens Are Using Their Voices to Awaken!”

  1. This is so powerful. IT inspires me as a teen to speak up, make a difference, and be a piece to a change. Thank you. I can imagine it took a ton of effort and juice out of you.

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