Be the change

Youth Direct Club promotes activism


Sophomores Katie Brown and Ziad Kamil attend a protest against gun violence as part of the new Youth DIrect Club. The club offers many opportunities for students to get involved.

The Youth Direct Club aims to increase student activism at the school and educate students on important social and political issues. While it was created partway through the school year, the club has already been involved in several demonstrations and offers students a way to find out about events and issues that interest them. It was formed earlier this year by sophomore Ziad Kamil, who wanted to help students at the school become more outspoken and active in politics.

“I created the club because I feel that many students at W-L aren’t politically active, and I wanted to introduce them to political actions,” Kamil said.

    Club members decide on events during meetings, then go to protests or demonstrations on these issues. Students in Youth Direct can then decide whether or not issue interests them enough to participate. “The club itself is a way for students to be informed on actions from the political left or right that are happening in the DMV area,” Kamil said.

It can be difficult for students to initially get involved in political activism. Some want to participate with a group, and others have difficulty finding an event to start with. The Youth Direct Club offers students a way to get involved and become an activist for what they believe in. “I feel the most difficult part of starting to go to these actions is finding people to go with, or not being comfortable being alone while at the actions,” Kamil said.

    Between protests, walkouts and encouraging young people to vote, activism and political volunteer work have become more common with students. Many student activists at the school hope to be able to make a difference through their work and do things like increase the number of young people who show up to the polls. “I hope to accomplish change in statistics for young voter turnout,” sophomore Darsey Trudo said. “I think the more student bodies press for action, the more politically activated our peers are going to get out and vote for change.”

    Students get involved for a variety of reasons. Some feel strongly about being politically active and trying to make a difference. “I decided to become involved mostly based on my personal beliefs, but also because I felt that as an Arlington resident, I need to utilize the proximity to the U.S. government that we are so lucky to have,” Trudo said.

    Other students decided to get involved as a student activist because of certain events, like February’s school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. “After the shooting in Parkland, it was so horrific I decided to reach out to different gun control groups,” sophomore Katie Brown said. “I looked into other shootings as well and tried to get more educated on the issue.”

One of the events that the club has done was a sit-in outside of Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell’s office to protest the blocking of gun regulations during a school day. “We were sitting in front of [his] office and chanting, generally making a big disruption,” Kamil said. “If he had come by, we wouldn’t have let him come in.”

Two students were arrested for unlawful protesting during the event outside Senator McConnell’s office. “No charges have been dealt yet, though, as [the students] were put in a delinquency program, then reintroduced into the court system with the recommendation of not being prosecuted,” Kamil said.

    Despite punishments or setbacks during their protesting and other work, the school’s student activists are still working towards their goals. Even sophomore Katie Brown, who was one of the students arrested during the protest at Senator McConnell’s office, is still determined to help create change. “[Being arrested] was temporarily discouraging, but overall I’m still active in trying to fight gun violence, so it didn’t hold me back too long,” Brown said.

The Youth Direct Club offers an encouraging environment for any students hoping to get involved in activism and voicing their beliefs. “There’s no reason not so show what you’re passionate about, so my advice would be to join Youth Direct Action, talk about it in classes, reach out to other student activists or all of the above,” Brown said

    As the country’s political divide has increased, activism from young people and students has become more and more common. The survivors of February’s school shooting in Parkland, have become fixtures in the national debate over gun control. Students across the country staged walkouts to support the cause, and the March for Our Lives saw more than 200,000 people descend on Washington, D.C. to call for stricter gun control and efforts to put an end to American gun violence.

“I think it’s important for students to get involved in activism because as a generation it’s important to sway the stigma that we are shallow, phone-obsessed kids,” Trudo said. “We need to use our technological savvy to spread our beliefs and encourage new voters to actually get to the polls.”