Newport News students hold candlelight vigil for gun-free schools

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A candlelight vigil was held for outside Hilton Elementary School in support of gun-free schools. Four Warwick High School students came together to plan the vigil and walk Wednesday night.

"We really want to emphasize honoring the victims lost, but I think the other purpose is to start something within the community," said Cate Sibley, one of the students.

She said that after hearing about the Parkland High School shooting, she and her friends knew they had to do something.

"There's no place for a gun in a school. We personally feel that. I know there are differing opinions on it, but we feel like it's important to ensure students can go to school and be safe," said Sibley.

"When you're seeing people your age be directly affected and not only affected but killed, it's something that catches your attention and is a call for action," said  Zawadi Stith, one of Sibley's classmates.

About 100 people attended the vigil and walk, including Shelly Simonds, who ran for a House of Delegates seat in 2017.

"I'm sad that it took such a tragedy to get these kids activated, but I'm also really hopeful. This morning when I saw them walk out, it was really emotional for me. This generation is going to be politically active and engaged," said Simonds.

That feeling was mutual for other adults in attendance, including William Wilson, who came to support his niece Stith.

"It shows awareness in the neighborhood; that we really need to help our kids and support them and show we are behind them," said Wilson.

After speeches from the students and Simonds, the crowd walked down Main Street from Hilton Elementary toward Warwick Boulevard. For the students, it marked the beginning of them taking action.

"Even such a small thing like this can make a big difference. It was very personal, very emotional. I was tearing up thinking about the change that can happen," said Stith.

The students said they hope this vigil can inspire and encourage others to get out and affect change by being involved and voting.

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Local schools participate in National Walkout Day