Milwaukee High School Students Join International Call For Climate Change Action

Mar 19, 2019

More than one hundred students staged a walkout Monday at the Milwaukee School of Languages on the city's west side. It was a follow-up to a global call for action on climate change on Friday orchestrated by teenagers around the globe - from Albania to Venezuela.

The rallies were inspired by a spunky Swedish student. Greta Thunberg staged weekly sit-ins outside the Swedish Parliament, criticizing her government for doing too little about climate change.

So why did it take the hundred-or-so Milwaukee high school students at 84th and Burleigh three days to spill out its front doors?

Seniors Faith Ocoko (left) and Brianna Ruiz joined in the call for action.
Credit Susan Bence

"I think there was a worldwide thing on Friday but we didn’t have school, so we’re doing it today," senior Brianna Ruiz explains.

The students didn’t strike or march to City Hall. They took about 15 minutes starting at 12:55 p.m. to make their voices heard.

Brianna says it all came together quickly. Word went out on social media, some students made signs.

I asked if they needed permission from the school’s principal.

"Well there was an announcement this morning that the district hadn’t approved the walkout, so there might be some kind of reprimand for us to do it," Brianna says. "But we thought about it but most movements, well all movements like the civil rights movement, they never asked permission. So why is this any different?"

An MPS spokesperson told me the reprimand will likely amount to students being marked absent and that would only apply to the walkout’s organizers.

Milwaukee School of Languages students as rally ended.
Credit Susan Bence

Senior Elijah Kraig is the lead organizer and is ecstatic. This is his first major climate change event, and lots more students came out than he expected.

"I think that it’s important that youth have a voice in their own future and we don’t sit around and watch as we robbed of our lives. And, I think that it’s really important for us to start standing up for ourselves, that way we’ll have a stronger generation because we are the future." Elijah adds, "Having informed students who are concerned about themselves is really important."

Fellow senior Faith Ocoko thinks there’s no time to waste. "I hope to be a neurosurgeon and with how the climate is really, really going to somewhere we don’t want it to go, I might not be able to get that dream."

Organizer Elijah wants his generation to demand more of its elected leaders – starting at the federal level. And closer to home, “We should start working to go all renewable at the city and state level. People should more informed ... so that we can start getting things done,” he says.

In Elijah’s words, “The climate catastrophe is a life and death situation for our generation.”

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