When news broke of the shooting in Parkland, Fla., 17-year-old Charlotte Lowell was sitting in her statistics class.

“And my first thought was, ‘Oh, this happened, now let’s go back to calculating Z scores or the statistic abnormalities.’ It was really atrocious,” she said.

Lowell, a senior at Andover High School, describes herself as a good student who probably cares “too much about grades.” She felt bad about how numb she was to another school shooting. So she organized a sit-induring class.

Around 700 students came.

They spoke about “gun culture and how to make sure that we are not complicit in a system that prioritizes guns over kids,” Lowell said.

Charlotte Lowell, 17, a student at Andover High School in Andover, Mass. Photo taken in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Mass.
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

Soon she was organizing a day for high school students around the state to lobby lawmakers on Beacon Hill. That brought her into contact with students from Boston who had different concerns about guns and violence. Together, they expanded their activism beyond school shootings.

One of those Boston students was Michael Martinez, a 17-year-old Roxbury native who goes to school in Weston through the METCO program. Martinez had been looking for a cause to embrace.

“I spent a lot of time trying to be this wise, intelligent high school student who would go off to some Ivy League college, and then I also spent some time, you know, trying to be a video game nerd. And I spent some time trying out the different cliques,” he said. “And now I'm realizing that the things that I want to do are so much more than American high school.”

Michael Martinez, 17, a student at Weston High School in Weston, Mass. Photo taken in Cambridge, Mass.
Bianca Vasquez Toness/WGBH News

Martinez has gotten deep into civic organizing. He’s an acolyte of the civic education guru Eric Liu who wrote the book, You Have More Power Than You Think. Martinez now calls himself a “practitioner of civic power.”

Martinez has family and friends who’ve been shot or killed by guns in Boston, not in school shootings, but on the street. He’s been looking for ways to organize people around gun violence, but he never had a platform.

When Parkland happened, he jumped in immediately, attending organizing meetings for Boston’s March For Our Lives rally.

At the beginning, it was “very Parkland-mass-shooting focused,” he said.

Most of the other organizers then were in college. There were alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the school where the 17 people were killed last month.

Martinez – who is Puerto Rican – brought a Haitian friend from Hyde Park. The two of them wanted the march to recognize the reality in Boston: most gun violence happens in communities of color. This is something they say has been ignored. They also wanted to highlight the concerns of black and brown boys who fear police aggression.

“We got a lot of pushback,” Martinez said. “Specifically from people who believed that we were trying to prioritize lives, from people who believe that we were totally discrediting every single person who's spoken up about mass shootings.”

Lowell was one of the other high school students in the room helping organize the march. She says she didn’t push back against focusing on people of color, but she also didn’t understand initially why it was so urgent for Martinez and his friend.

“I'm white, and that privilege and that identity means that there are things that were not and are not in my mind oftentimes until they are brought to my attention,” she said. “The amount of social justice education that I have kind of acquired in the past month is extraordinary. And I’m incredibly grateful for it.”

This surprised Martinez.

“I was very cynical of communities who live in the suburbs,” Martinez said.

He says he’s always thought, “they just live in a bubble and don’t want to hear about our problems.”

“Then I met Charlotte and I'm like, ‘Whoa. You are not what I expected from a young white woman from the suburbs.'”

This dialog between city and suburban kids could create a march that’s different than the ones happening across the country tomorrow. Organizers say the Boston rally will focus on people of color and how they’re disproportionately affected by gun violence.