On April 13th, Senator Ben Cardin made a visit to Parkdale for the School Violence Summit held in the school library. Students and teachers had the opportunity to raise questions and concerns pertaining to gun violence directly to the senator.
The library was filled with rows of students and a designated podium where the senator stood to interact with them. Various news networks, including NBC4 and WTOP were on the sidelines broadcasting the event.
Senior Kobie Morgan served as the facilitator who gave the senator a warm welcome and directed the organized program of the summit.
The summit was an engaging experience for Parkdale students in that they had a chance to ask questions on matters that concerned their livelihood, education, and learning environment.
One senior, Paola Vicioso, expressed concerns about the purchasing of guns on the internet. “You can’t change technology,” responded Senator Cardin. “What we can do is have legal requirements on that commerce.”
Since the theme and focus of the summit was gun violence, many students stood up to ask questions, propose solutions, and provide testimonies to Senator Cardin.
One testimony was from junior Kyle Alegre, who rose from his seat without hesitation and told his emotional recollection watching the broadcasting of the Cleveland shooting. Throughout his story, he mentioned the concern he had felt for the lives of his younger siblings at the time of the shooting.
Throughout the discussion, Sen. Cardin created a comfortable and open space for students to participate and be involved in the conversation. The rows of students, consisting of IB, AP, ESOL, and more, took this rare opportunity with seriousness.
“I was so impressed with our students and their ability and willingness to engage,” said AP English teacher Ms. Olfky. She also noted that she was impressed that the senator spoke to the students “… and not down to them.”
The overall atmosphere of the summit had students and teachers walking away with numerous positives and impacting lessons.
IB senior Natalya Nicholas was especially pleased that the Senator “came to a minority school where [it feels like] we don’t have any opinions no matter what we do.” She felt however, that since Sen. Cardin expressed that Democrats are a minority to the Republicans in the platform of Congress, “he understands that concept of being the minority.”
It was not only students who were impacted by the openness and positivity of the senator during a discussion of a difficult topic.
“I was really impressed,” said fashion design teacher, Ms. Bistransin “He was encouraging for young people to get out to be apart of democracy, to vote, to make your voices heard… like what the Florida kids started it should never stop.”
Although the summit was filled with a sufficient amount of discussion between Senator Cardin and students, there were areas for improvement that could have impacted the entire Parkdale student body.
The summit had approximately 100 students, 15 teachers, and a few other staff members who were on list to attend. This special opportunity could have been the perfect platform to encourage the entirety of Parkdale to use their voices and participate in rallying for what they believe in.
“Often times we impact a few and there’s an opportunity to impact more,” said Ms. Olfky. “We have to find a way to get kids interested.”