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Now a Penn State Freshman, March for Our Lives Co-Founder Aims to Bring Political Awareness to New Community

by on September 22, 2019 5:00 AM

Most freshmen come to Penn State hoping that their work will leave some sort of mark on the university or the communities it supports.

Freshman Alex Wind, however, has made a worldwide impact before even stepping foot on campus.

Wind is one of the co-founders of the March for Our Lives movement, an organization formed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students following Feb. 14, 2018, when 17 of their classmates were killed in a shooting at the Parkland, Fla. school.

Preparation for the march-turned-organization began the next day, when Wind’s best friend and fellow March For Our Lives co-founder, Cameron Kasky, told him that he and other students were meeting to plan a march against gun violence in America. That Saturday, they held a press conference and officially announced the March For Our Lives event in Washington D.C.

From there, it was all about preparing for the march. This included traveling to Washington D.C. to talk with legislators, completing press tours, and coordinating with march organizers. Wind said that the group came together to designate roles based on personal strengths.

“We were all 17 and 18 at the time,” he said. “We had never planned a march before so we were just figuring out what skills we already had beforehand that could be useful to what we were trying to do and just putting that to best use.”

Wind and his peers were surprised by the almost immediate impact March For Our Lives generated. According to Wind, the group expected about 100-200 people to attend the D.C. march. To he and his peers’ surprise, more hundreds of thousands of people came to show their support, and 800 separate marches took place worldwide. It was the largest single day of protest against gun violence in history.

According to Wind, he and his peers never intended to start the organization. Their goal was to make a statement with the march, but they never imagined that their efforts would lead to its current, sustained influence.

“The fact that our school was able to do something like that was never something that I would’ve even imagined, or hoped, or even wanted to happen,” Wind said.

After the march, Wind joined the March For Our Lives: Road to Change Tour where he spread the movement’s message and gained feedback on how to sustain the national conversation about gun violence.

The driving force behind the movement for Wind and his peers is simple — they never want what happened to them to happen to anybody else.

“What we’re trying to show is that what is happening right now should not be happening,” Wind said.

Photo by Emilee McGovern Photography

Wind believes the organization’s greatest accomplishment thus far is that it has given young people a voice and sparked an interest in political activism among his peers. Wind said that he wants people to know that the message of March For Our Lives isn’t anti-Second Amendment. He said it’s pro-saving lives and will accept anyone who wants to support the cause. While he and his peers have a specific vision for how they want to run the movement, they’re open to any interpretation of how others think gun violence should be addressed.

Wind said that his involvement and experiences within March For Our Lives made him a more empathetic person and taught him to start taking life day-by-day.

“It’s so hard to be thinking about what you’re doing right now and really making sure that you’re doing that to the best of your ability,” Wind said. “That’s something that I’m really trying to do more of.”

Wind said that he and the original founders of March For Our Lives are taking a slow approach to planning the continuation of their efforts since most of them have graduated and moved away from Parkland. This includes developing ways to expand the movement.

He acknowledged that change starts at the local level and that having members of their organization scattered across the country potentially will allow them to achieve change on the state and national level.

Political activism has become important in Wind’s life, but he’s studying a subject he loves at Penn State. He is a member of the university’s musical theatre program, which is what attracted him to Happy Valley. Additionally, he said he wanted to go to school in a state that has a similar political climate as Florida.

“I wanted to be in a place where I could study what I love doing and also a place that would support and encourage and allow me to do everything I wanted to do from a political aspect,” Wind said.

Although he’s only been on campus for a few weeks, Wind is thinking ahead about what he wants to accomplish during his time at Penn State. His biggest goal is to make sure every student on campus is registered to vote and politically aware.

“I’m going to be dedicating myself to making sure that students are awake and active in a political climate that needs them right now,” he said. “Whether they’re voting Republican or Democrat, young people need to be voting and need to be listening and paying attention.”

Mackenzie Cullen is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State
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