First-grader Havana Chapman-Edwards was the only student from Fort Hunt Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia to partake in the National School Walkout to protest violence in schools.
The protest was held on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, and groups of students and school faculty across the country participated in the event. The event is one of many that’s been sparked by a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl.
Seventeen people were killed in the incident and another 17 were injured. Since then, students who attended the high school, as well as advocates across the country, have been vocal in demanding action from lawmakers on gun control.
When Bethany Edwards, Havana’s mom, realized her daughter’s school had not planned a walkout, CNN reports she signed Havana out to make sure she could participate.
“When we walked out and saw no one else had, I was crushed initially because she was so upset. They decided to watch coverage from other walkouts, which lifted Havana’s spirit,” Edwards told CNN.
Havana’s Twitter page makes it clear that she has big dreams. She states in her bio that she eventually wants to become an artist, an astronaut and doesn’t stop short of aiming to become the President of the United States one day.
“She wanted to represent for African and African-American girls who are victims of gun violence, as well as her cousin, Tony, who was a victim of gun violence. By wearing her astronaut suit, she wants to show the world that black girls are beautiful and strong and have just as much of a right to be leaders as anyone else. She wants to be a warrior for girls all over the world who don’t have a voice,” her mom told CNN.
She wasn’t the only student to take a stand on her own this week, however. Ten-year-old Delilah Matrese from Hamilton Elementary in Carlisle, Pennsylvania also participated in the walkout without the company of her classmates.
However, she was joined by her father Stephen Matrese in her efforts, who signed her out of class so she could join in the fight. Her mother Melissa Matrese tweeted a photo of her daughter outside Hamilton Elementary, holding a protest sign.
Organizers said an estimated 150,000 students protested Friday at more than 2,700 walkouts, including at least one in each state, as they sought to sustain a wave of youth activism that drove a larger round of walkouts on March 14. Activists behind that earlier protest estimated it drew nearly 1 million students.
-With a file from the Associated Press.