What If: The Students of Parkland On How We Can Create Change, Together

“What if meeting politicians valued each other’s lives over dollars?”
“What if instead of thoughts and prayers, we had policy and change?”
“What if our founding fathers knew how deadly guns would become?”
“What if I could go to school and not have to fear for my life? “
These were the questions asked in a video played at the Girls’ Lounge at 4As showcasing the #WhatIf campaign, which was launched by students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida after 17 people lost their lives there during a mass shooting.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about what I care about, it’s not about what my views are, I’m just a tool for these kids,” said Jeff Vespa, Photographer and Creator of the “What If” Campaign, during a panel conversation in the lounge.
“[The Parkland students] don’t need the story told—they have the story. What they need is our help to take the story out…to the rest of the world,” said David Sable, CEO, Young & Rubicam.

Julia Cordover, Parkland Survivor, with Shelley Zalis, CEO, The Female Quotient

Julia Cordover, Parkland Survivor, with Shelley Zalis, CEO, The Female Quotient

“One of the things we talk a lot about as an industry is coming together to make a difference when our voices, our creativity, our storytelling, our money can help. To not just talk about the issues, but to truly create the changes we want to see,” said Shelley Zalis, CEO, The Female Quotient. “We say you students are the next generation, but you are absolutely the now generation. You are leaders. You are standing up for what matters. You are rallying together. You are making a difference. I can guarantee that together we are going to make the changes that we want to see.”
We asked the Parkland students what they think needs to happen in order to create real change. Their answers are powerful reminders that leadership isn’t about age, but about action.
“Encourage the younger generations to make it out there to the polls and cast their votes…Advertise voting and the impact of that.” ~Julia Cordover, Parkland Survivor
“Universal background checks and getting these weapons of war off the streets would help stop tragedies like this from happening again.” ~Madison Leal, Parkland Survivor
“I think we should get these stories out to… encourage people to think how we don’t want this to happen to anyone else, and we don’t want our kids to see this.” ~ Eden Hebron, Parkland Survivor
“Mental illness is a big thing in this country, and this world. People with mental illness need access to treatment because we lost 17 people who should be here today…nobody should ever have to go through this…and I think what will make the biggest change is to listen to the people who were there…We will be the ones who are going to make a change.” ~ Jayden Beir, Parkland Survivor
“The weapons used have to be limited. For example, we need magazine limits to not have 25 bullets. And making sure bump stocks are not sold anywhere, not on Amazon, not on Craig’s List. Those things turn semiautomatic rifles into automatic rifles. I strongly believe that those types of accessories shouldn’t be on the street where people can just go online and purchase them.” ~Jared Helman
“Being part of Change the Ref, a foundation started by Joaquin Oliver’s father [a Parkland victim]…, its main focus is to empower the youth. That means  making sure that our voices are heard, and that we have the help that we need. There’s a lot that falls under that…we need to know who to vote for. There needs to be a simplified way to spread that type of information and simplify candidates just like the NRA does.” ~Sam Zeif, Parkland Survivor
“Something I believe we should take away from all of this is that this could really happen again anywhere at any time…before this I remembered hearing about Sandy Hook and Columbine…and you can’t really comprehend it because you haven’t experienced it. The thing that makes us different is that we have now experienced it…Since this is all about media and getting our word out…I believe if we want to have more people involved in what we’re doing, we need to have more events like the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC… I believe if we work together, we’ll get this done.” ~Jared Helman
Parkland survivors hold hands inside the Girls' Lounge at 4A's in Miami

Parkland survivors hold hands inside the Girls’ Lounge at 4A’s in Miami

“We need to share the mic…We are only experts on February 14, but this is someone else’s reality on a daily basis…and we need to shed a light on these communities….All schools need to have equal safety. If we are going to get stronger gates, all schools should have gates. If we are going to get new locks, all schools need to have new locks. If we are going to get bullet-proof windows, all schools need to have bullet-proof windows. No one should be left out of this” ~Mei-Ling Ho-Shin, Parkland Survivor
“In the media you see focus on voting and gun control, but that is pretty much it. I want to hear more about solutions, and conflict resolution…this is as important, if not more important, than guns. Teaching our kids how to turn built-up aggression and anger into something beautiful, into passion, into music, art and poetry. I want people to shed light on all of the different issues.” ~Brandon Dasent, Parkland Survivor
“People from black communities and impoverished communities in general…feel like they don’t have a voice… and the media has never listened to them. It’s our job as leaders of this movement to infuse these communities with resources and teach these people that they can…get back their voice. We need to teach people that every life matters, no matter where you are from or who you are.” ~Kai Korber, Parkland Survivor
As Shelley Zalis said to the students, “There is nothing we can do to make the loss and pain go away, but what we can do is hold hands together with you and help you push forward with your message and your voices.”
A special thank you to the Parkland students for inspiring us to use our voices and take action to create change. If you’d like to help, proceeds from the “No” bracelets and t-shirts from our Confidence Collection will go to supporting the movement.