Students at Saint Viator High School joined with thousands of school across the nation in taking part in a

Senior Gina Pieri opens the demonstration

National Walkout timed with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. However, what distinguished theirs was the Viatorian charism, which came up again and again during student speeches.

“Help us to live out the Viatorian charism rooted in the protection of young people and the creation of peaceful communities,” said junior Maura Hogaboom in an opening prayer.

“Action is at the core of Viatorian and Christian values,” added senior Tim Witek. “When we see injustice in the world, we take steps to make change. We don’t shy away.”

More than 125 students took part.

Tim was one of three senior organizers, who had gathered signatures for a petition they presented to administration members before the walkout.

“I hope all of you feel welcome to voice your opinions in a respectful manner today, through prayer, awareness and action,” said another organizer, senior Gina Pieri. “A Viatorian education has taught me that I have to care for those other than myself and my own community.”

Students emerged at 10 a.m. to find backpacks with helium-filled balloons in front of the school. Each one symbolized some of the well-known schools affected by shootings, from Columbine and Marjory Stoneman Douglas high schools, to Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech universities, to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Students released balloons, one by one, in honor schools that had sustained shootings

One by one, students released the biodegradable balloons solemnly. With each one were pieces of paper describing how Saint Viator students were praying and advocating for an end to gun violence — and action  items on how to get in touch with elected officials.

“We’re here today as students and Viatorians to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” Tim added, “and we demand change.”

Students said the walkout was just the beginning. In taking action, they presented classmates with pamphlets on how to write to elected officials, including giving phone numbers and addresses, and even a template for what to say. Afterwards, members of the League of Women Voters were on hand during all lunch periods to register voters.

Fr. Arnold Perham

Watching all of this from the background was Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, now in his 70th year as a Viatorian.

“I’m an old protester from the Viet Nam days,” Fr. Perham said, “so I’m impressed with how organized they were — and their concern for other students.”