Parkland, Fla., students to take part in RIC forum on youth activism

A FORUM TITLED “Make Way for Gen Z” will take place at Rhode Island College on March 25. A panel discussion will feature two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who have become activists in the wake of a mass shooting at the Florida school in 2018. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE

PROVIDENCE – Two students from the Parkland, Fla., high school where a mass shooting took place in February 2018 will participate in a forum “Make Way for Gen Z” at Rhode Island College on March 25.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Alex Wind and Tyah-Amoy Roberts will be joined by their Advanced Placement government teacher Jeff Foster on a six-person panel for a discussion about the up-and-coming generation of political leaders and activists, or Generation Z, representing those who were born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s.

The event will take place from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in Sapinsley Hall on the Providence campus, and more than 500 Rhode Island high school students are expected to attend.

“As they head into their 20s and into the 2020s, [Generation Z] will be challenged, as have previous generations, to find solutions to national and international problems,” said Valerie Endress, RIC associate professor of communication and director of RIC’s American Democracy Project, which is sponsoring the event.

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The questions the forum will tackle: What has forced Gen Z to take on the mantle of leadership so young? How does this affect their coming of age? What changes are they seeking and why? And, finally, what are their principle challenges as they seek a new vision and new ways of engaging in the political process?

Deborah “Arnie” Arnesen, producer and radio host of “The Attitude” on 94.7 WNHN-FM in Concord, N.H., will moderate.

The panelists include:

  • Roberts, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School who co-founded Students Tactfully Organizing Revolutionary Movements. She is an ambassador for United States of Women and is on the executive council of Team Enough, a collective of young activists advocating for gun control.
  • Wind, a senior at Stoneman Douglas who co-founded March for Our Lives and the Never Again MSD campaign.
  • Foster, the only AP government teacher at Stoneman Douglas. Nearly all Stoneman Douglas students advocating for gun reform, including activist Emma González, took Foster’s AP United States Government and Politics class.
  • Rey Junco, director of research at Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Junco is one of the foremost scholars on social media, youth and activism.
  • Rosa Ramos, a community activist and impact manager at City Year Providence.
  • Musah Mohammed Sesay, a senior at Classical High School in Providence who is co-plaintiff in a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of all Rhode Island public school students. The suit addresses the lack of civic education in underfunded high schools.

The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and faculty members dead and another 17 injured. An expelled student was arrested following the massacre.

The shooting touched off a student-led movement pushing for more gun control. The movement included a march on Washington for stricter gun laws. Titled “March for Our Lives,” the demonstration became one of the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War.

William Hamilton is a PBN staff writer. Email him at