Acting Out

As teenagers across the nation increase their involvement in activism, the student voices of Allen High School rise to create change on local, national and international levels.


Parker Primrose and Audrey Vieira


The aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida, resulted in the voices of student survivors such as Emma Gonzalez, Sarah Chadwick and David Hogg creating and stimulating conversation across the country about gun control and school safety. Through their campaign for change, these teenage activists are successfully encouraging Florida state senators on both ends of the political spectrum to pass legislation restricting gun purchases and banning the sale of bump stocks.

On a more local level, students in Allen are becoming more engaged in activism by participating in organizations and taking action to spread awareness for local, national and global issues. Not only do these students speak out for their causes, they also commit the time and resources to improve lives and make a tangible difference in the community.

Getting Involved

By definition, making a difference means to actually incite change within someone or something that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. For students like junior José Marquez, one of three original founders of the World Wildlife Fund chapter at Allen, that means going a step beyond pointing out the world’s issues.

“I, for one, hate complainers, so I stopped complaining and I started doing,” Marquez said.

Marquez discovered his passion for nature at a young age and wanted to find a way to help preserve the world’s animals and environments.

“It’s just heartbreaking when you go online and start hearing about the other side of the world, like the Great Barrier Reef is considered dead or that the government has now legalized elephant hunting and other animal trophy hunting,” Marquez said. “It’s heartbreaking, but you’ve got to move on from that heartbreak and start doing something heartwarming.”

Marquez isn’t the only student who chooses to use more than his voice while advocating for a cause. Senior Amisha Kumar also searches for ways to make a tangible difference.

“When I go on Twitter and I see [bad news or complaints], I don’t normally retweet it,” Kumar, secretary of Red Cross Eagles, said. “In my mind, if I see it I think ‘okay, what change? What impact? What can we organize to fix this?’”

Impact doesn’t just have to be on a global or national level. For example, senior and Gay-Straight Alliance president Megan Potts sees campus as a place to begin spreading activism and unity.

“I want to have a positive influence on the school,” Potts said. “[I want to] help to make the school a more accepting and inclusive environment.”

Knowing how to make a difference also involves recognizing one’s own gifts and talents. Senior and American Sign Language club president Erin White does that through her work with the Deaf community.

“With my fluency, if I’m in an area with a large Deaf population, I can become more involved in the community,” White said. “With my ties to the hearing world as well, maybe I can bridge any gaps, alleviate any maybe concerns or doubts that they have with each other.”

What it’s all about

The next step for students making a difference is to turn their passion into action. Whether it’s raising money or supporting an organization, change can be brought about in a variety of ways.

“[World Wildlife Fund] raised over $400 towards coral reef conservation,” Marquez said. “We are now raising money to symbolically adopt an elephant. Once an animal’s extinct, you can’t really turn that back.”

However, raising funds is not the only way to support a cause or organization, as Kumar has shown that sometimes a new perspective on an old item is all it takes to change the game for those in need.

“We just did [a project], Soles for Hope, where we cut out jeans and we cut them out into templates, and then the [organization] sews them and stitches them up into shoes for kids in Africa and third world countries,” Kumar said. “They don’t have it like [we do] here. You can’t just go to the Nike store or the outlet mall and buy some shoes.”

Red Cross Eagles also serves the public in other ways. Kumar and the organization also focus on improving public health.

“We host three blood drives a year,” Kumar said. “People always need blood. For instance, with all these shootings, they lose so much blood, so when people donate blood, people can do blood transfusions.”

Change isn’t always in the form of physical gifts or donations. White has shown that change can be achieved purely through a person’s sheer presence and willingness to volunteer time for a cause.

“[The American Sign Language club] tries to get out in the community and make ASL and deafness normal here at Allen where it’s not as prevalent,” White said. “There have been a couple of times where we’ve signed the national anthem at Allen sporting events, and we did once at an Allen Americans hockey game. The first Friday of the month, there’s an event called Deaf Coffee Chat, and we all go and we just get to meet some more people in the Deaf community.”

Some organizations take steps to make a difference by investing in future generations, like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

“[UNICEF] goes to homeless shelters and provides activities for children who don’t get as many activities [as other children],” sponsor Sandy Lee said. “They go to other shelters for refugees, and they provide opportunities and activities for those children as well.”

The future

Students letting their voice be heard is not a recent phenomena, but the magnitude of modern student engagement is something that Marquez feels is a reflection of what will only become more powerful in the future.

“We are no silent generation,” Marquez said. “It’s awe-inspiring, really. Being complacent is never something I want to see me be doing, so it really is heartwarming to see people want change.”

Serving as an advocate for change doesn’t require a student starting his or her own organization or working independently. Leaders like Kumar say that all it takes is finding something to be passionate about and seeking out others who feel the same way.

“Find an organization or find some topic that [you’re] interested in and grow from that,” Kumar said. “Try to think about [or] jot down ideas of how you could change gun control, public health. We’re the ones that have to grow up and make an impact if anything’s going to happen.”