WACO, Texas (KWTX) Middle school students shouted "Protect kids, not guns" they pounded the pavement during a march at around lunchtime Wednesday in downtown Waco.
The students from the Baylor School of Education's Freedom School program were participating in the National Day of Social Action.
While marching in front of the courthouse, they held signs and chanted, cranking up the volume on an issue they said needs more attention, gun violence.
Iryanna Goodman, 13, said children her age and younger are dying because of gun violence.
"And we need to stop that because they are not getting a chance to go to college or pursuing their dreams,” she said.
She started attending the Freedom School to work on her reading skills, because literacy is a large focus of the program.
Since that time, she said she has made great improvements and was commended on her STAAR test performance last year.
So she's learning how to become a stronger reader, but she is also learning more about the power of her own voice, how to back up her claims, and use fact-based research to challenge others.
In preparing for the National Day of Social Action, through research she learned that in Texas a person must be at least 21 years old to obtain a license to carry a handgun.
She said her group also learned that even at that age maturity has not reached.
Across the Brazos River in East Waco, a younger group of students gave presentations at J.H. Hines Elementary school about what they've learned about gun violence.
Ty'honnsty King, 8, reinforced the message to her group about what to do if they encounter a gun.
"Stop, don't touch, run away, and tell a grownup."
The student had a special visit from local police officers who talked about guns and gun safety.
They also took to the streets to march, chant, and rally.
Dist. 1 Waco City Councilwoman Andrea Barefield said now is the time to have this very serious discussion with children of all ages.
"The question you should really ask is, 'What happens if it's too late and you miss your window?'” she said.
“So I know there are some hard topics but I have never felt that there wasn't anything I couldn't explain to my children. There is a way you do it and to not take away from the innocence of your childhood, but in this day and age, in this society they are better learned then unlearned. So I don't know that there is any age that we shouldn't start talking about our role and civic engagement especially."