I grew up understanding that an act of protest was one of the most important things someone could do. At my high school, along with thousands of other schools nationwide, we performed a walkout on March 24, 2018 to show solidarity with the victims of the Parkland school shooting.

This was not only a time to be in solidarity with those students and teachers who lost their lives but a call on our politicians to listen to their citizens. I realized then that young people have such a powerful voice that needs to be used to show our politicians that change is necessary.

As an individual, you may feel like your voice is small and insignificant in the face of laws, powerful politicians, and companies like I did when the news of the Parkland shooting happened. But, as I have learned through events such as these, you should never doubt how much you can accomplish through community participation and civic engagement.

In a small town like Missoula especially, a lot can change when just a handful of people show up and make their voice heard; whether in form of a protest when injustices are unearthed (as in what just happened at UM regarding both the Dean of the Law School and Rob Smith), or in the form of a vote cast in a local election.

In this upcoming election in Missoula, spend a little extra time researching and understanding who your candidates are and what they want to do for you. Our opinions and what we would stand and march for should be reflected in our candidates. Our politicians should always listen to the concerns of the citizens before protests and walkouts become necessary.

Although protests display community engagement and public opinion, we can avoid the need for them by voting locally to end these systems of violence.