By Katie Chin
“For me, how I combat the political apathy and hopelessness that I think is all too common after mass tragedies like the shooting at Robb Elementary School is knowing that I am one of so many people fighting to prevent it from happening again.”
What began as attending the March for our Lives’ demonstration in support of gun control legislation led to years dedicated to advocacy for Lily Arangio, a senior at St. Francis High School. Born in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018, March for Our Lives is a youth-led movement devoted to promoting direct action in eliminating gun violence in America. Over a million people across the nation gathered in 2018 to rally for revisions in gun control legislation. During the midterm elections that year, the organization spurred the highest percentage of youth voter turnout ever and a record 46 NRA-backed candidates lost their elections that November.
In California, Arangio celebrated her 13th birthday at the local march in San Jose. As she marched alongside thousands of others, her passion for advocacy took flight.
“I remember being so in awe of the high schoolers who were leading the event and I couldn’t wait to be one of them,” Arangio said. “I knew right then and there that as soon as I was old enough for the lead team, I wanted to be a part of it.”
Arangio applied for the lead team in the summer before her sophomore year and earned a position as the volunteer coordinator. Responsible for managing March for Our Lives’ volunteers and coordinating activities such as phone banking at voter registration events, she gained invaluable experience in contributing to the organization’s cause. In the following year, Arangio served as the outreach coordinator, meeting monthly with the national chapter and local organizations in the Bay Area.
On June 11, over 450 marches took place across the nation in response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Thousands gathered in Redwood City for a march led by the San Jose and Sequoia chapters of March for Our Lives. Voices demanding justice and urging for change in gun control laws filled the air. Arangio’s was one of them.
One of four students leading the march, Arangio played a significant role in coordinating the march, connecting with potential speakers and community members, ensuring that the march was in accordance with city guidelines and transporting merch between locations. Marching through downtown Redwood City, Arangio led the chants reverberating down the street.
“I think the most important part about speaking up on these topics is that it’s how we can ensure justice for the people who lose their lives to gun violence,” Arangio said. “We have to remember that it’s an injustice to the people who lost their lives and the people who continue to lose their lives to gun violence if we just give up.”
This year, Arangio has taken on the role of Lead Coordinator for the March for our Lives San Jose chapter. Her involvement with March for Our Lives has been an prominent component of her high school career and has helped her to grow as a leader. She continues to be inspired by the stories of those in her community.
“A lot of people have told me their stories of gun violence prevention, and it’s always the ones who have gone through so much tragedy because of gun violence,” Arangio said. “And yet, they’re still here fighting for change, and I think that’s just an incredible dedication to the cause. Those are always really inspiring stories to hear.”
Arangio’s years with March for Our Lives have not been without challenge. Facing the tragedies of gun violence can be devastating and has, at times, taken a heavy emotional toll on her. Yet, Arangio is driven by her unwavering pursuit of change and justice.
“When I hear someone tell me their story with gun violence, it’s not just about having empathy,” Arangio said. “It’s about having empathy, and then turning around and making it so that no one else has to experience something similar.”
Arangio hopes to see an increase in phone banking this midterm season and to create a policy agenda for the March for Our Lives San Jose chapter. She looks forward to continuing advocating for change and staying involved with the organization following high school graduation.
“March for Our Lives shows that there is power in protests and power in protest that is completely led by youth,” Arangio said. “We recognize the intersectionality within the gun violence prevention movement and that there are issues rooted in economic issues, racial injustice and gender violence. We work to address it all.”
Arangio encourages others to step up and take a stand against injustices, promoting confidence and a determined belief in each fight. She finds strength within a vast support system of advocates fighting for a cause.
“Just stick to it and be confident in what you’re fighting for,” Arangio said. “Know that you have support networks and you’re not alone. No one advocates alone, no one has to advocate alone.”