2018-03-29-tf-news-march-5

Foxboro High School students Olivia Balbanis and Nicole Yeomans display protest signs at the March for Our Lives on Boston Common last Saturday.

For local students and adults who have participated in school walkouts and other events around the issue of gun violence, activism didn’t stop when the marching ended.

Many of these same individuals also joined the national “March for Our Lives” on Boston Common last Saturday, talked with local legislators and participated in discussion forums.

Olivia Balabanis, 17, a senior at Foxboro High School, was one of several FHS students participating in last Saturday’s march — along with Mary Mitchell, Julia Muise, Lexi Quinn, Julia Carangelo, Shayla Blair, Nicole Yeomans and Kate Scollins.

Afterwards, Balabanis said she was impressed by the number of people gathered on Boston Common, and had come to realize how many of her peers share similar beliefs.

“Everyone was so supportive and uplifting of each other, Balabanis said. “It was powerful listening to people’s speeches.”

Other students plan to take their convictions to the ballot box as soon as they reach voting age.

“I plan to register to vote in the elections, and support any other marches in our area,” said Mary Mitchell, also 17.

Meanwhile, some students at Foxboro High and the Foxborough Regional Charter School were still processing what had occurred during their respective walkout events on March 15.

Nicole Sorial, 17, a senior at the charter school who lives in Norton, said the experience was revelatory.

“I’ve realized the power that the young people in this country hold, and I’ve decided that it’s finally time for me to start using it,” she said.

Sorial said the words of student survivors from the Feb. 14 school shootings in Parkland, Fla. were particularly powerful.

“Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are literally my age and leading an entire movement for something they believe in,” she said. “I realized that #ENOUGH was something I believe in wholeheartedly as well, and I decided to act on those beliefs rather than just talk about it.”

Others shared similar beliefs.

“It was very important to do this walkout for so many reasons,” said Shawn McNamara, a Foxboro High School senior.

“We as a country find ourselves in a vicious cycle where tragedy strikes and conversation opens up around gun control,” he said. “But we then gradually fade back to the way it was, almost waiting for the tragedy to strike again.”

Sorial and McNamara, joined by Haley Harrison from the charter school and Gabrielle Shilcusky from Foxboro High, appeared on Foxboro Cable Access to talk about gun violence.

Bob Hickey, who hosted the show, said he was impressed by the poise and mature passion displayed by the four.

“If these four young adults are representative of today’s youth, then I think the future will be bright and I have every expectation they will each do great things in life,” Hickey said.

McNamara and student council vice president Catherine Luciano also had an special opportunity to meet and speak to state Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, during a 40th birthday party held in his honor last weekend.

McNamara hand delivered to Feeney a letter outlining his views on the topic. McNamara acknowledged there is no clear answer to the complex question of how to stop gun violence, but it was reassuring to know that attempts at a solution are being formulated.

Feeney likewise was impressed by the students.

“I have been so inspired and have hope in the future in the next generation,” he said.

Shilcusky said she and her peers are enthusiastic about sharing their message going forward.

“Young people are passionate about the future of our country and safety for all Americans,” she said. “We want politicians to think about us, our safety and our futures, and enact changes because enough is enough.”

Rick Foster can be reached at 508-236-0360.