SUNY Cortland students plan march against gun violence

Students walk out of Cortland High School Wednesday morning (photos by Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

By Hannah Bistocchi
SUNY Cortland Communications Office

As soon as Raquel Rodriguez-Asher ’17 heard about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., she knew she wanted to do something to help the victims and their families.

“I heard about a kid who was holding doors for his friends, so they could escape, and he was killed,” said Rodriguez-Asher, a graduate community health major from Newburgh, N.Y., who has a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Cortland in the same discipline.

“When you’re 15 you worry about the prom and track practice,” said Rodriguez-Asher, who serves as a graduate assistant for SUNY Cortland’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Education Office.

“Nobody should have to be worrying about surviving a school shooting when they’re 15.”

Still reeling from the news of the massive school shooting that claimed the lives of 14 students and three adults, Rodriguez-Asher decided to do something to show SUNY Cortland’s support for the victims and also help bring more awareness to gun control issues.

From this, plans for a SUNY Cortland “March for Our Lives” event were born.

Scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, on the steps of Corey Union, the march will be the first in the College’s history.

“We are trying to pay our respects to those who lost their lives,” said Rodriguez-Asher.

She’ll address the crowd with SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum.

“We need to talk about mental health but also gun policy,” she said. “We can’t ignore these red flags anymore.”

A moment of silence will follow the ceremony for those who lost their lives. Participants then will walk a similar route around the campus as the “Take Back the Night” marches.

Rodriguez-Asher credits Health Educator Lauren Herman ’12, M ’13 with helping her make this idea a reality.

Following the Florida mass shooting, Rodriguez-Asher sent an email to the Student Government Association and Bitterbaum.  Encouraged by the positive responses, she brought the event to life in under three days.

The entire campus community, including all campus groups and teams, is invited to participate.

“I’m really hoping that NYPIRG will get involved,” said Rodriguez-Asher. “Hopefully this gets enough students aware and registered to vote to contribute and help remedy this issue.”

Rodriguez-Asher believes that what Florida youth are trying to do will ignite nationwide change on gun control.

“When Vietnam was happening, the major protestors were young kids trying to make a difference,” said Rodriguez-Asher. “These kids in Florida, and this generation, have the potential to make changes in our legislation in gun policies and school safety policies.”

Individuals with questions or who wish to help with the event may contact Rodriguez-Asher or stop by her office, located in Vanhoesen Hall, Room B-1, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday or Friday.