Students should not have to demand a right to live. But here we are.
Firearms should not be the leading killer of youth in America. But here we are.
Students should not have to continually bring flowers for the classmates we lost and be traumatized by preventable gun violence, but here we are—wearing orange to raise awareness of our gun violence crisis and to honor those who have been stolen from us.
Day after day, people are reposting the same stories, with thoughts and prayers filling the comments. But thoughts and prayers are not enough. The message we often receive as young people is that no one is going to protect us—so we have to pick up the slack ourselves.
I was sick of being scared to walk the hallways of my school, of seeing the faces of kids no older than me on TV, and of this violence happening over and over again.
I realized no one else was going to fight for us, which meant I had to take action. I know my actions alone wouldn’t make the biggest change, but I have hope that one day in the future, students won’t have the same thought that echoes through my head: What if I am next?
Students showed up week after week at the State Capitol, talking to our legislators, marching across town, registering each other to vote, testifying, and helping to pass common sense gun laws. And—it’s WORKING. Raising our voices matters—we helped raise the age to buy a weapon and passed a ghost gun bills this legislative session.
We show up in our communities, at our schools, and at our statehouse because we deserve to live. We deserve to not have firearms be the number one killer of our generation. We deserve to not have to mourn classmates lost to gun violence.
When it comes to gun violence, it’s easy for most of us to ignore it. It’s on the news, we turn it off. It’s in the paper, we turn the page. It’s just a distant story to most of us, to which we shake our heads before allowing it to leave our minds just as fast as it entered. But many folks do not have the luxury of ignoring gun violence when it’s happening right outside their door.
There are people behind those stories. People who have died, people who have been wounded, people who have been left behind, and families and communities who will never be the same.
We are sick and tired of this hurt. Which is why our student leaders show up and make sure we’re fighting together against the same pain—and the students we show up with from Denver East High School remain ever present as my biggest inspiration. At one rally, one of the leaders said something I cannot forget:
“We do not want to be here. We have to be here.”
And that’s why it’s so important that we recognize our survivors, and why I choose to wear orange. Even as we speak up, we must lift the voices of survivors who have endured what fuels our fight. Whether it’s survivors who have shared their stories, or those who haven’t yet been able to, we cannot forget what happened. We will not forget what happened.
I would like to thank Mr. McKinney, who came into the Student Senate, my high school’s Student Body Government, and introduced us to Students Demand Action. This allowed Nandita Nair, our president, Agnes Holena, our secretary, and me to do everything that we do to prevent gun violence. I would also like to thank our activities director, Krista Keogh, who helped us start our chapter and spread the message of getting involved.
Wear Orange is a reminder of the work that continues the remaining 364 days of the year: Showing up and taking action. Registering to vote, testifying for or against legislation, keeping up with the news, and supporting the survivors and victims you know, are just a few ways to do your part because if we don’t do it, no one will.
During National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend, we join together to demand a future free from gun violence once and for all.Join Us
Kimaya Kini (she/her/hers)
Vice President of Cherry Creek High School’s Students Demand Action, Greenwood Village, CO