Parkland High School students in the Lehigh Valley have felt a closer-than-average bond to their fellow teenagers who attend the high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed last month.
On a day when many thousands of students walked out of classrooms across the country to rally for stronger gun control laws and against violence in schools, those who attend the high school in South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, gathered as well.
Parkland High is the largest high school in the Lehigh Valley, with some 3,200 students.
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"We are showing now that we can make change and make a difference in the world," Parkland senior Collin Duff said during a morning rally Wednesday.
Duff and his sister, Kayleigh, have already raised $10,000 by selling "Parkland for Parkland" bracelets in the community. All of the money, the siblings said, is going to families of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students — many not old enough to vote — at private and public, small and large area schools left classes around 10 a.m. to protest gun violence in what was expected to be the biggest national demonstration yet that has emerged following the massacre Feb. 14.
At other schools, events acknowledging the movement were held inside school. At Pennsauken High School in New Jersey, about 1,300 students signed up for a “walkout” of class but not the school building as 17 bells tolled for the 17 victims.
Like so many students across the country, Collin and Kayliegh Duff feel an incredible bond with fellow teens in the movement to stop the proliferation of guns and accompanying violence.
Incredibly, the Duffs have a familial connection to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High community, lending even more meaning to their "Parkland for Parkland" message.
Their cousin, Daniel, is a freshman at the Florida school.
"We were just sitting there waiting for him to walk out of the school," Collin Duff said.
Eventually, Daniel did.
Inside Parkland High on Wednesday morning, the student body held up their phones, using the lights to shine in unity.
"Seeing everyone's lights go up one-by-one then suddenly all at once, it was breathtaking," Kayleigh Duff said. She added, "We are the generation that can change the future."