Follow Up: Washtenaw Youth Initiative


Pioneer Senior Clara Nuñez-Reguiero speaks to the crowd.

On February 14th, 2018, 17 students were killed in a shooting in Parkland, Florida. Shortly after, Pioneer’s Emma Roth along with other Washtenaw County students formed Washtenaw Youth Initiative (WYI) to fight against gun violence. Since their initial sister march, they’ve expanded to rallies, panels, and meetings with Michigan legislatures.

“It’s actually super easy [to join]. We usually have meetings on Sundays at 1:00 at the neutral zone,” said Pioneer Senior Sarah Lewis. “If you check out Instagram or message us it’s super easy to get involved and in contact with people who can tell you when the meetings are.”

Since WYI’s founding, most of the original members have either graduated or are going to graduate soon. “We’re looking for as many people as we can get,” said Lewis. The group is also looking to increase its diversity. “Our group is mostly white girls, so we really want to bring representation to people that aren’t just white girls, especially people of color, because obviously, we see most gun violence is centered around people of color rather than white communities,” said Senior Clara Nuñéz-Regueiro.

Regardless of race WYI is a welcoming community. “No matter what your demographic is, no matter what identity you represent we want to have your voice there,” said Nuñéz Regueiro.

WYI allows for students to gain presentational skills and make changes in their community. “The opportunities that we have include a lot of public speaking. We put on a lot of events that have to do with marches, walkouts, rallies, etc where we have a group of speakers,” said Nuñéz-Regueiro, “We do a lot of paneling where we talk to students and legislatures alike. We also have the opportunity to talk to our actual legislatures and try and lobby them to make sure they change certain laws.”

“I think it’s really important to join if you want to actually make a difference and start organizing and taking action, not just seeing things in the news or walking out of school,” said Lewis. Nuñez-Regueiro is grateful for the speaking opportunities and confidence WYI has instilled. “I’ve really gotten the chance to stop being afraid of speaking in front of a crowd,” she said. “The largest group that I spoke in front of with WYI was around 600 people, so I really stopped being afraid of voicing my opinions to a large group of people.”

The group is very accepting and collaborative. “The people are really nice I think that’s the best thing about it is that it’s a really welcoming environment. I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people who don’t go to school at Pioneer,” said Lewis. “They’re just the highlight of my week,” said Nuñéz-Regueiro.

WYI is also expanding to cover non-school related violence. “We are always open to improvement. A lot of people I feel see us as kind of unapproachable, but we’re always open to new ideas,” said Nuñéz-Regueiro. “Right now we’re really trying to open the focus of our actions over gun control to not just be over school shootings. Things like gang violence or mental health issues, because ultimately school shootings are a very small minority of gun violence.”

WYI is looking for new members especially freshmen, so the legacy can live on. “I think it’s super important especially for underclassmen because the group did start last year and there were a lot of seniors who graduated this past spring,” said Lewis.