WASHINGTON - Thousands of young people are expected to descend on the nation’s capital on March 24 for the March for Our Lives rally. Student survivors of the Florida school shooting organized the demonstration to rally for gun control legislation.
After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, students from Montgomery County Public Schools staged a walkout where they left school and came to the United States Capitol in support of gun control legislation like the students in Florida are demanding.
Now, hundreds of D.C. area residents are opening their doors to students to give them a free place to stay for the upcoming march. People as young as teenagers are getting organized and working to secure housing for other complete strangers.
Gabrielle Zwi and Michaela Hoenig, two senior students at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, have created a student exchange-like program through social media where middle school, high school and college students from around the country who want to come to the rally in Washington, but may not have the means, to stay with a host family in the D.C. region for no cost. Of course, their parents have to give permission.
So far, they have 700 spots available. About half of them are already filled with students coming from states such as Florida, Tennessee and California.
The Maryland teenagers said their goal is to get as many students to the march as possible to have their voices heard and show support for victims of gun violence.
“We are both not 18 yet. We will be by the time elections roll around this year, but that means we can’t book our own hotels, that means we are not able to make as much money as many adults are for things like travel and staying in a hotel and we don't own an airline or anything. But we do have homes in the D.C. area and we really like the idea of connecting students to students who are passionate about the same things,” said Zwi.
“Columbine happened the year before we were born,” said Hoenig. “So we have never lived in a time where there wasn't mass gun violence, school shootings, anything like that. It’s a really scary time to be alive, but we are finally old enough to be able to have a say and make a difference.”
D.C. area residents opening up their homes to rally-goers is nothing new. A group called DC Local Ambassadors did something similar during the Women's March on Washington last year.
Volunteers with the group have joined up with the March for Our Lives lodging group and are again opening their doors for free to attendees from out of town on the weekend of March 24.