This Is What 20 March For Our Lifers Are Planning To Do With Their Lives

by Alexandra Svokos

On Saturday, March 24, hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets to demand their own safety from guns. The March For Our Lives was orchestrated by the teenage survivors of a Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and their call for gun reform clearly resonated with students across the country as March For Our Lives attendees showed up in various cities and towns to echo it.

Many of the speeches across the cities centered on what the victims of gun violence will no longer be able to do because their lives were cut short by guns. Those victims include Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in 2013 in Chicago, days after singing as part of the celebrations around Barack Obama's second inauguration.

"We will no longer let our stories end with guns," Nza-Ari Khepra, a senior at Columbia University and Pendleton's friend, said in her speech in New York. "We must and we will go out of our way to protect children's lives, even if the people in power will not."

With that idea in mind, I spoke with 20 of the young March For Our Life demonstrators in New York City about what they want to do with their lives, provided they are given that opportunity to grow up without being killed by a gun.

Nza-Ari Khepra — Illinois
Alexandra Svokos

"I'm always still figuring it out, I revise it a lot," Khepra says, "but my future, furthest, largest goal is to create some type of cross between an organization and a business that focuses on the different portions of the systemic issues that I believe cause gun violence in Chicago, so things like failing school systems [and] institutional racism ... Once you instill that opportunity in people, maybe we can stop people from picking up guns in the first place."

Ben, 11, And Maisie, 12 — Connecticut
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"I want to play sports. Basketball or baseball," Ben says.

Maisie, Ben's sister, said, "I would like to be a teacher, or teach in some way. Any subject really, I just enjoy helping people learn."

Riya Gupta, 17, Suzy Shailesh, 17, And Esha Jain, 18 — New Jersey
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"I'm still trying to figure that out, but what I know I want to do is help people, and that's why I'm going into public health," Gupta says. "Gun control is a public health issue, and I just want to make an impact on people and help people. That's my main goal, that's what makes me happy, that's why I'm here today, and that's why I'm going to continue these things, I'm going to go to town halls, I just want to make a positive impact so I can die happy."

"I'm especially passionate about working with children and in schools," Shailesh says. "I like to be with kids, help them grow. I think I'm going to be majoring in computer science, so I can work in educational technology. I'm not exactly sure what I want to do yet, but I'm looking forward to it."

"I want to go into social entrepreneurship eventually," Jain says. "Right now, me and my friends have a nonprofit service club where we raise money, and we're all going to school [for] something related in that field."

Brock, 9 — New Jersey
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Brock would like to be "a coder" when he grows up.

Laurice Arthur, 12, Chyna Smith, 17, Titanna Martinez, 17, Daney Malone, 16 — New York
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"When I get older, I would like to be a musician, because I think that I could influence the youth to do better things through my songs and the way I inspire them," Arthur says.

Smith says, "I would like to be a doctor for kids, because I like kids and I like to make them feel better, stuff like that — and enjoy life to the fullest."

"When I get older, I want to be a forensic pathologist, like a mortician," Martinez says. "I find that interesting, and I've always been inspired by people on TV that do this, and I want to do it next."

Malone, meanwhile, wants to be a computer technician when he gets older. "I like computers — a lot. I have computer programming classes in school and all that, and I just like working with computers," he says.

Lily Mugale and Lola Tung, 15 — New York
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"I want to be a veterinarian," Mugale says, and she adds that she wants to "help the people in the younger generations to speak up" as well.

Tung, who introduced performers onstage, wants to be an actress — and to use that platform to advocate for change and gun control. "I think it's very important to use your abilities to make a change, and I really want to be able to make a change in the world and be a leader for all these kids," she says.

Meredith, 9 — Connecticut
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"I want to be a teacher," Meredith says.

Alexis Lawrence, 19, And Emilia Toscano, 18 — New Jersey
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"Just seeing this gives us a hope also for a better generation, that everyone's coming together trying to make a change, even if they weren't affected by it. It just shows us that it's coming for a better generation, and I want to be a part of that as much as I can," Lawrence says.

Toscano echoed that, saying it's great to have the hope from the march. "My goal is to give people hope that there will be change. Right now, in the present time, and also in the future," she says.

Victoria, 16, And Danielle, 16 — New York
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"I would like to do marine biology and something with business with that," Victoria says.

"I want to be a high school math teacher when I get older," Danielle says. "I want things to change for when I'm a teacher, for schools to be safe since I'm going to be working in schools for the rest of my life."

Henry, 7 — New York
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Alexandra Svokos

When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Henry replies, "I don't know."

Megan Bonner, 16 — Parkland, Florida
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Bonner, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman, says she wants to be a veterinarian or a nurse.

"I really like animals, but sometimes I think about it, and I don't want to put animals down, because that would make me sad," she tells me backstage. "So nursing is another thing that I'm passionate about, helping people out and always being that nurse that everybody loves to see and makes you happy even though you're in a hospital. If I'm a nurse, I want to be that nurse that they're always so happy to see when they come in the room."

Bonner says that the shooting made her want to be a nurse even more. "If I was older and [the shooting] was happening, I would be there to help out, and help people. When I was in the building, all I wanted to do was help. Just to do something, anything that I could. It was hard for me. All I want to do is help," she says.