More than 400 students at St. Joseph Academy walked out of class Wednesday morning in a peaceful demonstration of solidarity with victims of mass shootings.

More than 400 students at St. Joseph Academy walked out of class Wednesday morning in a peaceful demonstration of solidarity with victims of mass shootings.

The event coincided with walkouts across the nation marking one month since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

“We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things and guns, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person,” said 17-year-old Gemma Cisneros, reading from prepared remarks during the demonstration at the campus entrance.

The Women’s March Youth Empower initiative called for students to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m. as part of the ENOUGH National School Walkout. St. Joseph Academy student organizers led their peers in prayer and moments of silence.

Mauricio Rodriguez, 17, said he was invited by Cisneros to read a portion of the program she prepared. Watching news of people his age impacted by the Florida shooting left him feeling powerless, he said.

“I want the people who have experienced this school shooting to know they’re not alone,” he said, “and there are people thinking of them and praying for them so they can get through everything they’re experiencing.”

Principal Melissa Valadez said she wasn’t surprised when students approached administrators last week about holding a campus walkout. The organizers are part of the school’s social justice class, she said.

“They’re practicing what they’re learning,” Valadez said. “They’ve been working on service projects since they could walk.”

Cisneros said one of the principals of Catholic social teachings is solidarity and the responsibility to help others. She said the message people should take away from the students’ demonstration is, “We don’t just pray, we do.”