Let me start off by saying this. This post is NOT meant to be political. I do not care about your views on gun control, gun reform or guns in general. I do not care if you are a Republican or a Democrat. Right now, I simply do not care.

What I do care about is this… On February 14, 2018, a mentally ill teenager walked into his former high school and slaughtered 17 people. However, the survivors did something most ADULTS could never even imagine. These children are using their experiences, their pain, their trauma to bring attention to a very serious, very controversial topic in America.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed one rather frustrating detail. Many adults, whether they be conservative or liberal, have used these children’s ages against them. They have slammed publications for giving teenagers a platform. They have mocked and criticized these students for being so very passionate in such a trying time. Now I am not saying everyone has written these teenagers off, but I have seen the rude and hateful comments for myself.

Honestly, I take the belittling of these future generations seriously. Maybe if I tell you my story, you will understand why I find this type of demeaning response so infuriating.

As many of you know, a very good friend of mine died by suicide on September 21, 2017. Since then, I have been working tirelessly with his 21 year old sister and our 24 year old friend to establish an event (#RickysCompass) to raise awareness on mental illness. We seemed to be doing so well. We raised thousands of dollars and met with many individuals in our community fighting for the SAME cause. We even seemed to have a very prominent organization backing us.

After many meetings, many discussions, many shared thoughts, we suddenly got an email. That specific organization could no longer support us. They had originally told us how impressed they were that three YOUNG women were fighting passionately for this cause. They so badly wanted to be a part of it, and then suddenly, they didn’t.

The worst part about it: they had taken many of our ideas. They decided to do a similar event for the same cause only days after our own. This really, truly bothered us. Our entire foundation, from insurance to networking, relied on this organization. Suddenly, everything seemed to tumble around us.

Throughout this entire process, the adults around us consistently made it a point to talk about our age. They never stopped telling us how it’s okay to start out small because they have been doing this for YEARS and still can’t always make things as big as we were hoping for. There was never a meeting where our age didn’t come up. This was a little baffling to us. Mental illness is ravaging our generation, so why is it such a surprise that three 20-something year olds want to take action and DO something about it?

Ultimately, we refuse to let this major setback stop us. We have realized that we can’t always rely on others. We need to be willing and able to do things for ourselves. WE must fight for what we believe in. Otherwise, who else will?

So to the teenagers, the students in Broward County, the survivors, the #NeverAgain ACTIVISTS, the fighters, to Emma Gonzalez, I say this, do not let ANYONE disparage you and your opinions because of your age. You have experienced things no human should ever have to go through. Your tenacity and resilience are both empowering and inspiring. People may not always agree with you, and that’s okay. No one will ever completely agree with someone. We all have our differences, but that’s life. Simply continue to fight for what you believe in. Continue to make your voices heard. MAKE PEOPLE LISTEN and be willing to listen. Change happens when people of ALL BACKGROUNDS with VARYING EXPERIENCES come together to find common ground.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12