Class to show solidarity with ‘March for Our Lives’ by hosting rally

Cassie Buchman, Editor in Chief

In a show of solidarity with the March for Our Lives events going on around the country, one public relations class at Eastern is hosting a rally of its own.

National March for Our Lives events were spurred by the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that ended in the deaths of 17 people.

Rebecca Cash, on the programming committee for the PR Campaign class planning the rally, remembers sitting in her office with tears in her eyes after watching Facebook videos from students inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting.

“Throughout the day, I felt like I was going through the motions, and a week later, (our professor) walks in (to class) and asks, ‘What do you think about it?’” she said.

After talking about the shooting as a class, they all decided to put on the March for Our Lives rally at Eastern, set for 11 a.m. March 24 in front of the Doudna Steps.

Brianna Welk, part of the media relations team in the class, said people are getting numb to these kinds of shootings now, which is a problem.

“That’s really sad,” she said. “That’s what they’re trying to do (with the marches) — is say we shouldn’t have the same reaction every single time.”

Members of the class have been creating social media pages, writing press releases and are even planning on taking over Eastern’s Snapchat account to get the word out about the rally.

Cash said the programming team has been reaching out to Eastern faculty, staff and students and those in Mattoon and Charleston High Schools to see who wants to speak and plan out how the day will go.

Usually, the class practices PR campaigns with a hypothetical organization, but this time, they are learning how to create one with a real rally.

“It’s actually happening, it’s relevant today,” Cash said. “You feel like you’re making a difference.”

Welk said organizers are not trying to be too political with the rally and are looking at it more through the lens of a public health crisis.

“When kids are affected by a school shooting and gun violence, they have to deal with going back to school, the anxiety of going back to school losing friends, PTSD,” she said. “We’re tackling the issues surrounding that, not just common sense gun laws and legislation.”

Cash said she is hoping anywhere between four to six people will speak at the rally.

The class has been trying to stay close to the original march organizers’ mission, she said.

Welk added that the class believes in what they are going for.

“No matter what your political beliefs are, it’s time for a change in this country,” Welk said.  “There’s not just one solution to go about this, there’s many ways to solve the problem. The Parkland students have proven that kids can make a change.”

Maria Baldwin, part of the class’ public relations team, said what the organizers of the rally want to do is bring awareness to the issue going on in the country.

“Everyone has their own political views, but at the same time we all know you need to be aware of what’s going on,” she said. “There’s so many different ways of looking at it, so many other solutions you could seek.”

Cash said everyone agreed that the shooting is not something they want to have happen again, at Eastern or anywhere else.

“Even if we get 10 people or 100 people, what we’re doing is going to make a difference,” she said. “I think it’s going to get people talking. I just think that no matter how it turns out, there’s only going to be good (that comes) out of it.”

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].