Students, already anxious due to unrealistic expectations around their performance and likability as measured by social media, are now panicked they will get shot at school. Whether it is by a fellow student or a police officer remains to be seen. Students are reacting differently to mass shootings. Some take to the streets, their social media accounts and #Resist. Some will criticize those efforts and troll them. Yet, some will remain apathetic about the country they live in and any power they may have to change it.
Not if Zoe Kuhn has anything to say about it. The 16-year-old North Oldham High School sophomore is an unapologetic do-er. “My attitude since I was little is: I want things done, so I’m gonna do it.”
Her school has a potential shooter safety drill each month, she said. “We know listen to teachers. Stay silent. Get away from windows. I’ve been talking to counselors, to administrators and to teachers and I think they have been doing simulation trainings as to what they would do if [there was] a shooter,” she said.
Zoe said she is worried every day about people coming into school with a gun. “I can’t focus because I am so focused on how terrified I am,” she said. Yet, she persists.
For Zoe and students like her, the answer is easy: Gun control. “Stop the problem before it gets to teachers shooting someone. Keep the person from getting the gun in the first place, from coming into the school.”
So, to push legislators toward more and better gun control laws, Zoe is promoting the #MarchForOurLives event March 24 in Louisville. She is an old hat at service work, which for her began with the Kentucky Youth Association , an arm of the YMCA, that provides hands- on leadership experience for students.
“A big part of the Y is service. We do a lot of service projects in the community,” she said. “One of the most notable is a voter drive. We sit in the school cafeteria and do it in shifts. Students come to us, fill out their voter registration form and we mail it for them. It takes three minutes during lunch.”
If Zoe’s school (or any school in Kentucky) registers to vote 100 percent of eligible students, it qualifies to receive the Georgia D. Powers award in recognition of Powers’ tireless efforts for civil rights, young voters and the Voting Rights Act.
Powers, the first African-American woman state senator in Kentucky, spoke at a women’s lunch here several years ago and told a rapt audience the story of locking arms and kneeling on the uneven pavement, when she was a young woman, in the dark morning fog, as garbage trucks approached her and other women during a sanitation strike. She said she wasn’t sure if the truck could see them and whether she would live.
Powers did live and went on to lead a generation to change discriminatory laws and social mores. Undoubtedly, those committed to (and protected by) the status quo scoffed at her efforts.
She did it anyway.
Zoe and her contemporaries will, too.
Her message to adult naysayers: “Listen to us. Don’t immediately think because I have a quarter the life experience, I can’t have 10 times the wisdom.”
We are growing up in a time when we are afraid to get an education, which is something many adults never had to deal with. Know we are just as powerful, if not more. There are so many of us who are ready to fight” she said. “Because we haven’t been fighting that long, we have the energy for it.
“Like so many before her, Zoe sees a power shift as inevitable and said she thinks her generation and the one behind hers will succeed in changing gun laws. Those clinging to the status quo are treading water only to be drowned by the much more powerful tide. “They’ve gotten their way and see how many people are against how things are right now and I think they’re afraid of allowing any kind of change to start.”
Duck and Cover, NRA.