Outraged and empowered, Wake County teens head to DC march for gun reform

MORRISVILLE, NC (WTVD) -- Thirty-seven days ago, before the rampage in Parkland, these teenagers in Morrisville didn't all know each other. But as their sadness turned to outrage, they united in group chats and social media to call for a change.

"She was like, 'hey we're planning a march and do this', so she's talking to me about it and I'm thinking this is a perfect way to get involved," explained Ashritha Nayini, a student at Green Hope High School in Cary.

Sheel Patel helped organize the student walkout at Panther Creek High. He then jumped on board when his new friends decided they wanted to go to Washington to join this weekend's March for Our Lives rally in Washington.

"I didn't want this to be like the previous times, like thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers for about a week and people just move on," Patel said. "But the people are still there. The people are still dead."

Siyiona Shah is the youngest in this group - a freshman at Green Hope. She admits to her very real fear of gun violence at school and she's offended she has to feel it.

"Oh my God, I might not be going home after this. And that scares me," Shah said. "It scares my mom. And I don't like my parents worrying that I might not come home from school."

The group will board a charter bus to Washington at 4 a.m. Saturday armed with a message calling for comprehensive gun law reform.

"We're the ones dealing with the repercussions of the gun laws," said Alisha Roa, a student at Cary Academy. "So, I'd say (to lawmakers), listen to the next generation of people that are going to be leading us."

In the hours before their bus departs to D.C., Shariya Vundavalli struck a tone of teenage empowerment: "Adults, yes, (the laws we make now) affects them too. But, it's mostly our future and I feel like we should get a say in it," said the Cary Academy student.

Standing not far away from this crowd of young people on the eve of their baptism into the world of civil protest was their proud parents. They chipped in together to pay for the chartered bus and are chaperoning the trip.

"It's actually great to see them drive this," said Sudhakar Vundavalli, Shariyah's father. "I really want them to get used to this process. You can take things into your control if you think you need to make a change. Don't just complain."

The group is already planning their next move upon their return from Washington. A similar march is in the works for Wake County students on the April 20 anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School.

That march is being called, "Why Wake Walks." Students from across the county are expected to take part.

And for those not traveling to DC this weekend, Raleigh and Durham are also participating in Saturday's Walk for Our Lives. Raleigh's event begins at 10 a.m. Durham's event begins at noon.
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