by SARAH WEGLARZ - April 11, 2021 - An inside look at the pro-life voice of Westfield High School
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to inform the audience of the mission and purpose of the Students for Life Club. Though Students for Life has recently become a talking point among WHS students, this article neither endorses nor criticizes them. It simply allows Students for Life an opportunity to share their objectives and paint a clearer picture of what they aim to accomplish. It also should be noted that the sponsor is an unpaid volunteer and that any student at WHS can start a club. If interested, see Mrs. Gibbs, Director of Student Activities.
A group of Students for Life members volunteer at Pregnancy Choices Indy - photo by REAGAN FORMASANI
Westfield, Ind. (April 2020) - The beginning of a school year always comes with new classes, new clothes, and sometimes, new clubs. This year, Students for Life made its debut at Westfield High School. Students for Life of America is a national nonprofit organization that has various chapters throughout the country, and its purpose is to “recruit, train, and mobilize the pro-life generation to abolish abortion” (Students for life of America).
When Gavin Ellis (11) and Ben Ice (11) learned about Students for Life, they decided to take action.
“I became involved in it actually through [Students for Life] social media posts, and I just kind of saw that they were posting stuff and I was like ‘Hey this is interesting,’” Ice said. “I saw some clips of the Unplanned pregnant movie, from Abby Johnson, and I was like, ‘Wow,’ so I wanted to become more involved. I reached out to them and they told me about how I can start up a club and that’s what I did.”
Slowly, the club started to gain more of a following. Students like Reagan Formasani (12) felt passionate about the mission of Students for Life and decided to learn more about it.
“I just saw it on Instagram at the beginning of the school year, and that’s something that I’ve always been very passionate about, and so I just reached out to them and asked how I could get involved,” Formasani said. “And as meetings went on, they made a leadership team and they put me as the social media slash outreach person.”
After a leadership team was assembled, the Students for Life Club started to organize activities, beginning with smaller events hosted at the high school.
“I think one of the most enjoyable [events] was we had a trivia night to raise money for the O’Connor House, and we had a ton of people come,” club sponsor, Jason Hemmerling, said. “We had it, before Thanksgiving perhaps, and we had probably 30 to 40 kids.”
After a few smaller events like the trivia night, though, WHS students for Life decided to take their work into the community.
“We volunteer at a pregnancy resource center in Noblesville, it’s called Life Center, and they have multiple [centers] around Indianapolis and Hamilton County too,” said Ellis. “One day we also went outside the courthouse in Noblesville, and held signs and it was on election day actually and just encouraged people to vote pro-life.”
The Students for Life Club also regularly travels to Planned Parenthood.
“We [usually] go down to Planned Parenthood once a month to just stand outside,” said Formasani. “We’re just there to pray for the women and we are there if they are wondering what their options are, and we ask them usually if we can explain to them what their options are.”
Not only does Students for Life exist to be a pro-life voice at Westfield High School, but its founders believe it is important to have a way for those with common beliefs to come together.
“Kids want to have a platform that they can discuss this,” said Mr. Hemmerling. “They can have a group of people that can come together, and learn, and explain, and be able to discuss things. [It’s] also to show people that we are pro-life, and we want you to know that we’re being positive about it, not just in negative situations.”
Though Students for Life at WHS has been successful in getting started, as with any new endeavor, it has not been without its fair share of challenges, mostly in relation to social media.
“The Instagram when it first went up definitely stirred the pot a lot,” Formasani said. “We just had a lot of people messaging us and commenting, and taking pictures of our posts and putting them on their stories and saying ‘F you’ and ‘How can these people be doing this?’”
Sometimes, the messages were even personally directed to some of the Students for Life leaders.
“I think the controversy [has] been a lot, and it’s been hard to deal with on a mental level to a certain extent, when you’re getting DM’s on Instagram like ‘Hey, I hope you kill yourself,’’ said Ice. “Hearing that kind of hate sucks. It’s definitely not easy to get through.”
But, Ice also believes that the community Students for Life has built has helped him be able to withstand messages such as these.
“I think that through talking about it with some other club leaders, talking with Reagan and other people, and being able to communicate is really important to stay strong there,” said Ice.
The leaders of Students for Life also believe their message is sometimes misconstrued.
“I think that it’s important that people know that we are not out to hate anyone,” said Ice. “It’s really important for people to understand that we’re coming out of a place of love and compassion, that we want to support women, [and] that’s why we volunteer at pregnancy resource centers. From our club’s point of view, from our national parent organization’s point of view, it wouldn’t make sense to try and stop abortion if you weren’t going to try and stop the reasons that people were having them. And those are women who are pregnant and in crisis and don’t know what to do. So that’s our goal, is to help those women in crisis.”
Ultimately, Students for Life wants to relay that they not only want to spread awareness about being pro-life, but that they are also open to discussion.
“It’s not just a Christian club, it's anyone that wants to learn more, that wants to gain knowledge, that wants to hear what people have to say about it,” said Mr. Hemmerling. “It’s not an exclusive club, and anybody is welcome.”