March For Our Lives Naperville

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More than one million people participated in the first March For Our Lives event on March 24, 2018. Almost a year later, Naperville has its own chapter of the organization, led by middle schoolers.

“I’m 14 so eighth grade at the junior high across the street,” said Co-Founder and Director Peyton Arens. “It’s definitely a shocker to a lot of people when they hear that at first. But everyone is like ‘you’re starting off young, it’s good,’ and it’s been very successful. It’s awesome starting off young and getting involved.”

Arens along with his friends and co-founders are the first March For Our Lives chapter founded by junior high students. They join the national organization, which was founded in the wake of the Parkland school shooting last year.

“Our goal is to raise awareness about gun violence in our community,” said Nathan May, the group’s media director. “We basically follow the same guidelines as the national foundation but on a more localized level. So we want to engage with the community and get them involved.”

Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

Though none of them said they’ve been personally affected by gun violence, Arens said it’s something that stays in the back of their minds.

“It’s just awful to think about – it could be me,” said Arens. “This should not be happening and we deserve to feel safe in schools. It’s supposed to be a learning environment and you can’t learn when that’s going through your head.”

Starting the Chapter

The group’s first meeting was on March 18 at the DuPage Children’s Museum, where Arens has been volunteering for three years.

“I think what’s really important is that the museum is really designed to help support children to think for themselves and to come up with ideas and problem solve,” said Sarah Orleans, executive director of the museum. “And to see a group mobilize like this at such a young age is something that we as adults have to really get behind and support.”

About 50 people attended the first meeting, where Arens announced the group had officially received a grant from the national organization to put together a march. Arens said they’re hoping to schedule that for late April or early May.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.