MOLINE, Ill. — Hundreds of Moline High School students walked out of class on Friday in protest of what they say is a culture of inequality at the school.
Students say the walk was not in response to any singular incident at the school. Instead, the activists told News 8 it was to help shift the attitude on how Black and Brown students are treated.
The peaceful protest, organized by the student-led club, Minority Leaders of Tomorrow, began with a march to the corner of school grounds. A short rally followed, as well as another march back to the school. The entire demonstration lasted roughly half an hour.
As one sign read, the kids were skipping lessons to teach one of their own.
"We want to feel loved and we want to feel valued," said Corynn Holmes, a junior at MHS. "Because in the building, we don't feel safe to be who and what we are all the time."
As the vice president of Minority Leaders of Tomorrow, Holmes helped organize and lead the walkout.
"Collectively, Black and Brown students at Moline High School have felt unheard, unseen and unvalued here. And today, we're out here to show you our love and show you our hearts and hope that you will receive us for who and what we are every day," Holmes said.
As she led the short rally on Friday morning, she got emotional looking out at the crowd of students. She thought maybe 50 would show up.
Several times throughout the rally, Holmes and several other students repeated that the walkout was about an overall mindset at the school. Minority students said they didn't feel safe inside MHS, saying they couldn't be, "Who and what we are all the time."
"This is a collective feeling that we've been feeling at our school since I've been a freshman," Holmes said. "And we're out here because we're refusing to be silent anymore. And we're refusing to retreat. This is not the time for it."
Students also said the administration and "some" staff members had been supportive of the walkout.
In response, the Moline-Coal Valley School District sent out a statement, saying:
"During a recent meeting of the Minority Leader’s of Tomorrow student organization at Moline High School, it was shared that some students of color continue to experience feelings of racial inequality. It was also shared that a student-led demonstration was planned to use their voices to communicate this message with students and staff, in a peaceful manner. All students in the Moline-Coal Valley School District have the right to a learning environment that is welcoming, safe, and accepting. We honor and respect student self-advocacy and are here to listen, reflect, and grow as a school and as a district."
As students marched around the school's property, there were chants of "all love," and "no hate, no fear, we should be welcome here!"
Spreading love and positivity was one of Holmes goals.
"It means a lot to me, it means a lot to us that we're coming to this with love, because that's the only way we're going to solve any problems here," she said. "I want to be willing to examine our mistakes and try to get better from there and really do it."
In the crowd were students of all ages and backgrounds. Many carried homemade signs. Interspersed chanting of "Black Lives Matter" broke out, as well as music and dancing from some of the students.
One student was freshman Ava Saucedo-Serra, who said she's a strong believer in coming together for positive change.
"Everybody out here as different opinions on everything, but we're all coming together for the same cause and I think that's the most important thing," Saucedo-Serra said. "It's not just a Black people thing, it's an everybody thing. But I do think it's important to shine the light on them because they've been in the dark for so long. And I just want to show love and support."