By Chad Garner
Special to the Sentinel & Enterprise
FITCHBURG — Student activism and school safety.
That’s the purpose of the Students for Action of Fitchburg High School United Way Youth Venture team.
“We want to specify that we’re not a gun-safety or school-shooting group,” said Michaela Wakefield, a senior and president of the Students for Action of FHS. “We want to give students the tools to speak out against something that they aren’t OK with. So we want to bridge that gap between see something, say something.
“It’s more of a movement to get kids to become activists, not only for themselves but to also advocate for others who might not have a voice.”
The group is comprised of eight students, including Natasha Ussrey, Cristina Pureco, Matthew Kroch, Ngoc Tang, Emily Baldini, Kato Bouthsarath and Peter Bragdon.
“It’s a club that’s open to anybody,” Bouthsarath said. “We don’t discriminate. Even though we’re promoting school safety and more gun control, we’re also open to people who might disagree with that.”
Added Baldini: “This is something students can come to and be a part of to get more involved about different issues that they find as major issues.”
FHS English teacher Megan Normandin serves as the venture team’s advisor.
“I am very proud of the work these students have done,” Normandin said.
“As the club came together and they began to work on a mission statement, the students became clear that they wanted to expand the original idea of safe schools, and make the focus the amplification of youth voices — especially as it pertains to political activism. They have worked hard and come a long way.”
What started out as a club last year turned into an official United Way Youth Venture team this month. Students for Action recently received a $1,000 donation from the United Way for its outstanding presentation.
“Thank you to Youth Venture,” Ussrey said. “That was very kind of them to give us the $1,000. We’re going to do a lot with it.”
The venture team is starting up a fundraiser coin-war between classes in school.
“Whoever has the most coins wins,” Ussrey said. “Half the proceeds will be donated to March For Our Lives, and then some of the money we got will be donated to Boys and Girls State.”
The group will be sponsoring one male and one female to attend Massachusetts Boys State and Girls State in June at Stonehill College.
Wakefield says Students for Action takes pride in being a part of the Youth Venture “because we really try to promote inclusion and diversity within our club, and that’s one of the big things that Youth Venture stands for.”
Students for Action initially started out as a group getting together over school vacation after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting in February of last year.
“We knew it wasn’t right and we wanted to say something so that other people wouldn’t have to go through it one day,” said Wakefield about the organized walkout that was held in the Field House to honor the victims and promote solidarity. “It took about week to come together and form a memoriam for the victims.”
The group has grown so much since, says Kroch.
“We found a more bipartisan approach. We wanted to adopt something where we wouldn’t be polarizing,” he said. “March For Our Lives is kind of controversial and we weren’t really wanting to be that type of group. We wanted to isolate from that and be more of a unifying group and unify students to be active for the things that they want changed in this country.
“Everyone has their own issues that they want to tackle, whether that’s gun violence, domestic violence, a bunch of other issues. Our core principal is galvanizing students so that they feel empowered to do what they feel passionate about.”
Students for Action of FHS can be found on Twitter @S4AFHS