It has been 263 days since Valentine’s Day.
Now, with just two days until Election Day, many students from Stoneman Douglas High School are getting ready to cast their first votes.
It was on Valentine’s Day that 17 of these students’ classmates and teachers were murdered at their Parkland, Florida high school.
Since then most of them have turned politically active. They have held marches, school walkouts and voter-registration events throughout the country. The consensus is that they have really made a difference.
But they have all been waiting for one big thing, and that occurs on Tuesday: their first Election Day.
Since the horrific massacre at their school the student activists have made a huge effort to reach the 4 million U.S. citizens who turned 18 this year and are now eligible to vote for the first time.
With the idealism of the young, they have been trying to counteract the voter apathy that is also prevalent among young people.
They have been urging all voters — old and young — to support gun reform, in the name of their fallen classmates.
“It is kind of the culmination of everything we’ve been working for,” said senior Jaclyn Corin, one of the founders of the March For Our Lives group. “This is truly the moment that young people are going to make the difference in this country.”
Corin voted with her dad at an early polling site on her 18th birthday. She visited a half-dozen cities just last week. She’s been getting up at three in the morning to catch her planes going to far-flung destinations where she is carrying her inspirational message.
Students like Corin, along with fellow students David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, have been living life in a whirlwind for months.
They have had great support from many celebrities, they have been on the cover of Time magazine, and they have been on all the late night talk shows. They even have book deals.
But none of that will mean anything unless they achieve their main goal, which is to motivate young voters to cast ballots by the end of the day on Tuesday.
At the University of Central Florida (UCF) last week Stoneman Douglas graduate and current UCF student Bradley Thornton escorted other students to the nearest early voting location. Another UCF student said she wouldn’t have voted if the Parkland student activists were not on campus.
“I’ve never voted in an election. I actually did it because of them,” the student said.
Corin said she has run into a great deal of voter apathy as she has traveled around the country. She mentions that voter turnout in the last midterm elections in 2014was the lowest since World War II.
“It’s really about tying it back to gun violence or tying it back to immigration or whatever that person is passionate about,” Corin said. “I’ve used that tactic so many times and it has actually worked.”
It remains to be seen how much the votes of young people will impact this year’s midterms. But one thing we know for sure is that the inspired (and inspiring) students from Stoneman Douglas High School are doing everything they can to make the impact larger than it has ever been.
In memory of their fallen classmates, they have wanted to make a difference, and that is something they have surely done, no matter what the outcome of the election on Tuesday.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.