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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lewis and Clark junior strives to keep student voices alive in debate over school shootings

Dylan Soth, 16, a junior at Lewis and Clark High School on April 11, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Dylan Soth wants to keep momentum going among the young voices calling for change after the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The junior class president at Lewis and Clark High School, who turned 17 this month, recently helped organize a school safety forum at Ferris High School that was attended by both Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

“The idea was that students would have a conversation with Cathy McMorris Rodgers and tell her what our feelings were and our advice on legislation and advocacy around the issue,” he said.

The Sept. 13 shooting at Freeman High School and the massacre that killed 17 students and teachers on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “just spurred me on and a lot of my peers to start fighting for change now,” Soth said. “I absolutely feel like that is what our culture is moving toward: more activism from youths my ages. We are the ones most affected by it.”

He noted that his school just started locking classrooms.

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“I think it’s important to follow the steps my school is taking to remain safe,” he said. “We are just trying to have respect for those changes and not try to find a way around the rules.”

However, that respect can sometimes be one-sided. Soth has seen stories about how some gun rights advocates have mocked some of the survivors of the Parkland shooting.

“It’s definitely disturbing,” Soth said of the criticism of the survivors speaking out. “It doesn’t really make sense for our voices to be heard less than anyone else’s. I really don’t like victim-blaming or anything like that.”

In the meantime, Soth, who also serves on the Chase Youth Commission, will continue his studies and organize hikes for the Lewis and Clark Hiking Club, which he helped form. He also earned a Chase Youth Award for leadership.

The club hikes around the bluff on the South Hill and in Riverside State Park near the Bowl and Pitcher area.

“It’s just nice to explore our area and appreciate nature. And, just be out in the elements,” he said.

“It’s nice to have the club at LC to give people something to do.”

At the school, Soth is known as a leader, said LC Assistant Principal Phil High-Edward.

“I just know (Soth) to be a really great kid,” High-Edward said. “I did talk to his English teacher … she describes him as an extremely intelligent yet unassuming kid. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. If all kids were like Dylan, she said she would be out of a job.”

Soth recently scored a 1,510 (out of 1,600) on his SAT and hopes to attend college out of state. He’s looking at colleges in California and Massachusetts.

“I want to study to become a mechanical engineer. I love math and science,” he said. “I just love the logic of it and the problem solving. That came from an early age.”