The Lost Class of 2022

Students and Organizations Advocating For Ending Gun Violence


Dana Dew, Staff Writer




(Represents every student that lost their lives to school shootings last year)





Most students remember the “March For Our Lives” campaign in 2018 in support of increased gun control legislation; both the broadcasting of the event in Washington D.C., and localized protests were spread throughout the United States. Some students may have even participated in walkouts at their school. Every day, students put thought into what has since changed and what hasn’t.

The public is once-again being reminded of the dangers that guns represent as a result of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, and the 17 mass-shootings which have happened across the U.S. since. 

There have been 27 school shootings in 2022 thus far, according to Education Week. There were 34 in 2021, 10 in 2020, and 24 each in 2018 and 2019, for a total of 119 in less than 4 years. 3,044 high school students lost their lives in 2021 alone. This is a terrifying prospect, but it doesn’t put the numbers into perspective. Unfortunately for many high school students, it has become the norm to hear of such atrocities.

“My generation has grown up in a world that is constantly impacted by gun violence,” said Rook Howes, a Summit Senior. “It’s getting to the point where it’s just something that happens; it’s hard to view school shootings as a tragedy when it seems to happen every week.” 

This appears to be a common attitude amongst highschools, which many have attempted to combat. In 2021, “The Lost Class” helped to visualize the true impression that gun violence has on students across the United States. The event, organized by activism group Change the Ref, seeks to promote gun-restrictive legislation by recording past victims of school shootings. The goal was to visualize the impact of school shootings in a way which statistics just don’t illustrate. 

The event itself was a graduation ceremony hosted for the students who lost their lives. Change the Ref created a wonderful yet horrifying scene in which each victim was represented by an empty chair, accompanied by a commencement ceremony congratulating the students on their accomplishments. 

The speeches themselves were delivered by David Keene, former president of the NRA, and John Lott, an economist and gun-rights advocate. The politicians were told they were speaking at a practice ceremony, anticipating an audience from the fabricated school of James Madison Academy. They were unaware of the true meaning behind the empty audience.

“Graduation day is meant to symbolize potential and achievement. But for this group of students, it’s become a day to wonder what the rest of their lives would have looked like,” says Manuel Oliver, co-founder of Change the Ref in an interview with Reel Chicago. 

Oliver’s son Joaquin was one of the 17 victims in the Parkland massacre. Alongside his wife, Patricia, the grieving parents founded Change the Ref and organized The Lost Class in Joaquin’s memory. Change the Ref continues their efforts, trying to work towards the safe schools we desperately need. 

The project reflects the current political environment in the United States, as young adults continue to push for reform in our gun legislature.

 “In my opinion, imposing more restrictions is absolutely necessary. It’s the bare minimum, actually,” said Mikaylee Gibbs, a current senior. “Whenever we as a society protest to fix this problem of guns in schools, people quote the 2nd Amendment at us. But in my eyes, it isn’t even a relevant argument. The constitution was written in the 17th century, where weapons like this weren’t even conceivable. So many things written into it have changed as social attitudes have evolved. Why does this have to be the exception?” 

So far, there are no solid answers to the problem. Proposed solutions notably include implementing legal capacity for magazines, stricter background checks, limiting sales to gun owners under the age of 21, and increasing waiting periods. Following the Uvalde shooting, there have been several proposals and a loose framework in the senate, but nothing is concrete. Perhaps, the demands of activists just don’t have enough influence. 

“The Lost Class was an incredible piece of art that depicts the vast loss that comes from school shootings. March For Our lives was an excellent idea that failed to gain the traction it deserves,” said Howes. “Neither effort was able to complete their goals, but it’s not shocking considering the control the gun industry has over our government.” 

School shootings aren’t the only danger to students in America. According to NPR, there have been 246 mass shootings in the United States this year. Approximately 15,000 students lose their lives per year, both during and outside of school hours. 

“Let’s not lose another class to the gun violence epidemic,” said Oliver, “let’s demand that we make graduating America’s children more important than gaining uninhibited access to guns.”