Where are the Parkland activists today?


You can find Sam Fuentes these days quietly working in the New York City diamond district, hoping no one recognizes her as a Parkland massacre survivor while she sells precious metals.

Ms. Fuentes, who was injured in the shooting, was one of the high school students who became breakout activists by founding March for Our Lives, a gun control advocacy organization with 26 employees and a nearly $4 million budget. The students have now lived four years in the spotlight, juggling activism, college and growing into adulthood under the media’s glare. They are trying to be normal 21- and 22-year-olds while at the same time being represented by public relations teams and speaker bureaus.

X González, the student best known for a shaved head and a riveting speech calling out “B.S.” from government leaders who failed to take action against gun violence, studied activism at New College of Florida and graduated in the spring. Formerly known as Emma, they announced last year that they are nonbinary. David Hogg and Jaclyn Corin were juniors at Harvard University this spring, where he is majoring in history and she in government. After a few trimesters at Columbia University, Cameron Kasky is working in Los Angeles as an intern for a producer and helps run a fake conspiracy theory website.

Ms. Fuentes, 22, is a part-time film and media studies major at Hunter College in Manhattan. She will not graduate for at least another two and a half years.

“For two years I was pretty much working and traveling nonstop,” she said. “It was sort of impossible to be in school.”

She wants a career in production and screen writing, hoping to use art as a form of healing and therapy.

“I moved out here to New York to network and find my identity,” she said.

Mr. Kasky, 21, said he became disillusioned with activism.

“Activism has turned into a for-profit muddled mess,” he said.

An aspiring Jewish comedy writer, he said he put off his studies because he did not want to be saddled with student loans and felt that taking up a seat at Columbia was disrespectful to the students who wanted it more.

“I am not somebody who puts a lot of value and importance into education,” he said.

“The work I want to do lies outside the reach of the halls of intelligentsia.”

Mr. Hogg, 22, made headlines this year for a Twitter scrap with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who said he needed to be more “masculine.” Mr. Hogg remains on the March for Our Lives board but took a break during the coronavirus pandemic to concentrate on school.

“That’s been one of the most healing things — just being a college student and focusing on the mundane things,” he said. “There are many students from the March for Our Lives co-founders group that are now in college studying theater or are considering going to law school, and I don’t see not being part of this as a failure in any way. I see it as an enormous success, because you can’t go up to a 15- or 16- or 17-year old and be like: ‘You’re going to do this for the rest of your life.’”

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