Easthampton students march in DC

  • Looking west from the stage area, the crowd fills Pennsylvania Avenue during the “March for Our Lives” rally in support of gun control, Saturday in Washington. Easthampton High School students bussed down Friday night to join the march in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

  • Easthampton High School students including sophomore Emily LaRoche, center, wait Friday to board a Peter Pan bus headed to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Easthampton High School juniors Nelson Alicea, 17, left, and Spencer Daughdrill, 16, wait March 23, 2018 to board a Peter Pan bus headed to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Easthampton High School students and community members line up March 23, 2018 to board a Peter Pan bus headed to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

Published: 3/24/2018 5:08:43 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The night before Saturday’s March for Our Lives, 28 students and eight chaperones packed into a bus outside Easthampton High School to travel to Washington for the national march.

Loaded with pillows and EpiPens, probiotics and posters they stayed late after school to make, the EHS students were checked onto the bus by Assistant Principal Susan Welson.

“Way to go to be here for civic action,” Welson told the students.

The bus and metro cards for the students and chaperones were paid for by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, and Welson said the school and students were very grateful for the foundation’s support.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Shannon Dunham, a chaperone and member of the Easthampton School Committee. “My daughter wanted to go, so I decided to go with her.”

Easthampton sophomores Evan Duda, Quincy Crabb and Kevin Reilly said they were excited to go to the national march.

Crabb said he had attended the national Women’s March in 2017 and that it was a great atmosphere to share viewpoints.

“I was inspired a couple of years back to protest against gun violence,” Duda said. “It’s a common-sense thing. It’s crazy to me that guns are worth more than kids’ lives.”

Nelson Alicea, wearing a sweatshirt with his family name across the background of a Puerto Rican flag, said he decided to go to D.C. to represent his entire family and send a message that change is needed.

Alicea said his family has been no stranger to gun violence with members still in Puerto Rico and others living in Holyoke, and he hopes to push for stronger background checks.

“This is one of the biggest things I’ve done as far as activism,” he said, adding that he planned to film the national march to make his family feel as though they were there with him.

Mary-Ellen LaRoche, dropping off her daughter, 10th-grader Emily LaRoche, said she was proud but a bit nervous about her making the trip.

“We need to change gun laws so we don’t have any more shootings or accidental shootings,” Emily LaRoche said.

The elder LaRoche embarrassed her daughter with a kiss goodbye, before saying she would see her at “like 2 or 3 a.m.” on Sunday and imploring all the students to look out for each other.

“Anywhere you are in the country right now, students are sharing their power and their empowerment,” Welson said before the bus headed off. “We’re very, very proud of our students for their civic action.”

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