While other students across the nation were walking out, some Waynesville High School students voluntarily walked to an assembly at Tiger Stadium where a planned, prepared speech was delivered during Tiger Time, a non-instructional time.

Approximately 400 of Waynesville High School’s 1,500 students attended the student-led assembly to stand together, unified, in opposition to school violence, including remembering those lost at Columbine, and promoting that every student should feel safe at school. Students who did not attend the assembly remained in Tiger Time. 

“I am here to shine light on the many different ways we as the future can create a safe environment for our siblings, our kids, our grandchildren,” said Marie Lewis, a WHS senior who volunteered to be the event’s speaker. “…standing here before you all today, I’m filled with hope that a violence-free future is near. A future that can’t be a reality without you and your passion, kindness and patience. The future is now and the future is us.” 

In her speech, Lewis encouraged her fellow students to be activists for change by volunteering. During their lunch hours, students had an opportunity to learn more about local organizations and how they could volunteer to make a positive difference in the world. The WHS Student Government Association arranged for the following organizations to be present:

• USO Ft. Wood Chapter 

• Genesis House

• Good Samaritan of the Ozarks

• Kitten Division

• SHARP from Fort Leonard Wood will have information promoting healthy relationships, teen advice and drug awareness

• Freshman Mentor Program is hosting a “Speak Out” booth raising awareness about reporting

• Student Government Association is providing a banner to sign

• A voter registration table will be set up as well 

Students will remember this real-world lesson, said WHS Principal Courtney Long. “Students have learned a lot about organizing an assembly, promoting it and the importance of communication.” 

Afterward, Dr. Brian Henry, superintendent, said, “I am proud of the maturity our students demonstrated today and how they handled this. We hope that building this relationship with our student body continues to encourage communication and students will be forthcoming if people are troubled or hear any threatening comments so we can continue to improve the environment of our school,” Henry said. “School safety is our priority and we know that beyond our physical security measures and school resource officers, building positive relationships with our students will help keep our students safe.”