Students Demand Action Formed in MHK


Amelia Knopp, Staff Writer

When Manhattan High School sophomore Sophia Steffensmeier decided to start a local chapter of Students Demand Action in the summer of 2020, she knew that her hard work could produce something special.

Now, Steffensmeier and local high school students are proudly sparking change in the Manhattan community. Students Demand Action (SDA) is a national organization of young adults working to end gun violence in the United States. The group advocates for improved gun sense policies, a prevalent political topic in our country.

“It was just hard for me to sit back and watch the school shootings,” said Steffensmeier, the group’s leader. “And I know people who have been personally affected by gun violence.”

The Manhattan SDA group engages in various advocacy activities, including election phone-banking, discussions with Kansas politicians and informational PowerPoint presentations. 

“We’ve learned about gun policy in other countries and how well they work compared to American statistics,” junior Eden Westfahl said. 

In June, some SDA members attended a Wear Orange event at Triangle Park in Manhattan to honor victims of gun violence. The group also participated in an October Zoom session with Kansas Senator Tom Hawk to discuss the upcoming 2020 elections and his political career.

The national Students Demand Action organization branches off of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement advocating improved gun safety measures for Americans. 

SDA, which is not school-affiliated, convenes once a month. The group currently interacts exclusively through Zoom meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, 2021 holds promise to be an exciting year for the group. According to Steffensmeier, the group intends to plan more phone-banking, a statewide or nationwide Zoom panel and educational lawnchair chats. 

As a young group, Manhattan SDA is looking to expand in the year ahead. SDA’s leaders agree that students do not have to be gun violence experts to join the group. 

“Some people that I’ve talked to have joined because they’re passionate about the issue, or they want to experience phone banking and volunteering, or just because they want to educate themselves,” Steffensmeier said.

SDA also provides leadership opportunities for high school students. The group is always looking for people to step up by planning events or leading meetings. SDA’s co-leader, sophomore Mitchell Bunger, shared that Students Demand Action is welcoming to students of all political views.

“It doesn’t even matter if you’re leaning left or right, if you are just passionate about [ending gun violence] or at least wanting to maybe learn more about it,” Bunger said. 

An expanded member base will help SDA further its outreach into the Manhattan community. According to Westfahl, SDA’s activism is a positive step towards a safer future. 

“Students Demand Action could definitely bring awareness, and information, to Manhattan,” Westfahl said. 

The Students Demand Action leadership primarily communicates through social media and GroupMe messaging. The SDA leaders encourage anyone who is interested in joining to check out the group’s Instagram page. According to Steffensmeier, Students Demand Action MHK is a beneficial opportunity for high schoolers.

“We are very dedicated to creating a platform for a diversity of voices and action, driven by young people,” Steffensmeier said.