Students at Rosemont Middle School spent their lunchtime on Wednesday walking together to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, acknowledge other atrocities, and sharing stories about how genocide impacted their families.
Beginning in 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Modern-day Turkey denies the deaths were genocide.
For Rosemont eighth-grader Lianna Simonyan, the walk is one way students can raise awareness about the genocide.
"Today is recognition for the things that happened in 1915. It's to show that we're not going to back down from what's happened, and we're going to keep fighting until recognition is given to us," she said. "That's something important to the Armenian culture. Turkey's taken away everything from us and our country. We need to keep telling people 'This is not over.' And we need to recognize it."
As she walked with her peers, she asked her friends to share their families' stories about the Armenian Genocide.
On April 24, 1915, many Armenian intellectuals and leaders were rounded up and killed. Each year on that date, many Armenians commemorate the genocide.
Throughout April, Rosemont teacher Janna Kasmanian said many students learn about their own families' histories and attend events to acknowledge the atrocities.
"This is an emotional time for the students since they hear so much … in their homes, and they participate in a lot of events and activities outside of school," she said.
Kasmanian worked with Rosemont Principal Cynthia Livingston to host the school's first "Walk, Talk & Learn" event last year after parents and students had for years urged for a commemorative event at Rosemont.
About 100 students participated on Wednesday, and many were of other ethnic backgrounds who were encouraged to attend.
"We thought this would be a positive way to approach it," Kasmanian said. "Hopefully, year by year, we'll get more students to come."
The event also acknowledged other mass killings.
"This is not just about the Armenian Genocide because there's been … other genocides that have not been recognized," Lianna said. "We're just trying to spread awareness of other countries that have done [mass killings]. Ignoring it is not going to make it go away."