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Jun 4, 2018 11:38 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Graduating Senior Took A Stand At East Hampton High School

Gianna Gregorio in her favorite section of the East Hampton Library: the graphic novel section. JON WINKLER
Jun 5, 2018 12:49 PM

It’s hard to miss Gianna Gregorio in public, with her short wavy hair and, sometimes, a leather jacket like a young punk rocker in the 1970s. The 17-year-old speaks fast and loud with a combination of passion, excitement and knowledge about whatever subject. And it’s all wrapped together by her smile, friendly and bright, showing unflinching energy invested in whatever is on her mind, regardless of public opinion.

Gianna once again stands out on a foggy Thursday afternoon inside the East Hampton Library, this time wearing a pink shirt and light blue jeans, as if using color to break through the muggy weather outdoors. She’s positive and peppy, and with good reason: She’d won multiple honors at the All School Awards program the previous evening, including the Four-Year English Award and a tie for Outstanding Senior Girl, at East Hampton High School. She went on to scoop up a number of scholarships and other awards on Thursday, May 31.

Gianna will be saying goodbye to the high school when she graduates on June 22, ready to embark upon four years at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. While she’s currently undecided on her major, Gianna said that she’s interested in studying bioethics law.

“I’m feeling nostalgic and apprehensive, but also excited for new horizons,” said Gianna, who lives in Montauk. “I definitely think that I’ve grown up in a little pond, and going into the real world is going to make me feel like an even smaller fish. But I’m happy to have grown up in this pond, and I’m ready to go on to bigger horizons.”

Gianna started her high school years with a goal of helping other students. She worked with the high school’s Gay Straight Alliance for many of her four years at the school, advocating for equal treatment for students in the LGBT community. One of Gianna’s most noteworthy accomplishments was working with the GSA to have a gender-neutral bathroom installed outside the school cafeteria in 2016.

Gianna said that she had friends who were gender neutral who had to use a bathroom in the nurse’s office to avoid being ostracized.

Gianna expressed gratitude to Principal Adam Fine for his support in getting the bathroom installed.

“Gianna is fair and she understands both sides,” Mr. Fine said on May 25. “We definitely had real discussions, and she has the ability to see both sides. Gianna can be strong on one of those sides—but that’s the kid. You listen to her voice.”

“The GSA hadn’t really taken an activist stance before that. It was more of a social club than an activist club,” Gianna said. “I came in and saw this as an opportunity for a cause to be furthered. These were people with like-minded needs, desires and goals. It was a lot of converting fear into pride and a sense of dignity you earn when you claim something.”

Her senior year has been particularly eventful, highlighted by her participation in a school walkout protesting gun violence on March 14 in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. During East Hampton’s walkout, which was one of nearly 3,000 in the country, Gianna stepped away from the rest of the students and stood in front of a collection of adults and reporters with an emphatic statement:

“The only thing easier to buy than a gun is a GOP candidate!”

Gianna said that she had a multitude of reactions from both ends of the spectrum. She noted how there were students at school who wore red, white and blue as to protest the walkout, along with angry comments on online stories about the event. Gianna said she thought it was “unsettling” that some of the angry responses were from adults, but said it was “nothing new” for her and a younger generation that faces disdain from its elders.

And where does she get that fortitude to handle a wave of negativity from people of all ages?

“Spite,” Gianna said with a smile and a chuckle. “I love spite.”

Regardless of her bravado, Gianna knows that many people her age are terrified that a shooting could happen in East Hampton considering the frequency of such events in America this year alone. Gianna said she saw a few students who were terrified and “breaking down in tears” during a lockdown at the school recently. She said she is proud to stand with other young people using their voice.

“These causes are a part of me now,” she said. “Protest is always going to be an act very close to my heart. I’m not going to lose faith that this democratic system still has potency and that we still have a say as citizens of our nation.”

As busy as she is inside school walls, Gianna has also kept herself occupied after school in numerous ways. She bikes, reads one book a week, makes art and even tends to her own houseplants. And when she talks about all of those things, there’s still a beaming enthusiasm in her voice.

“We have so many capabilities as people,” Gianna said. “Just little things that you realize like, ‘I’m going to research the language of flowers and the symbolism of Victorian bouquets,’ and we have the abilities as people to be passionately interested about everything.”

Her passion specifically came from something long before she stepped into the halls of East Hampton High. As Gianna explained, she would sleep over at her grandparents’ house on the weekends between the ages of 5 and 12. Through almost every one of those weekends, Gianna said, she learned something new: how to ride a tractor, how to feed chickens and how to catch bugs.

“That constant learning contributed to my thirst for knowledge and wide range of passions that I still have to this day,” she said. “I realize that I have something to learn from everyone—and I think that’s the biggest thing about who I am now. I want to learn more so I can teach more people.”

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"Gianna said she thought it was “unsettling” that some of the angry responses were from adults, but said it was “nothing new” for her and a younger generation that faces disdain from its elders. "

Gianna finds opposition to her views unsettling. That's hardly a surprise, she's been taught that other's simply don't have the right to disagree. If an adult objects to a teenager advocating diminishment of an element of the Bill of Rights, an argument built upon grossly ...more
By MoronEliminator (151), Montauk on Jun 9, 18 6:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
And all of your posts collectively represent the perfect evolution of adult "wisdom" ?

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle !!!
By Nero (261), Sag Harbor on Jun 9, 18 6:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
You're right. Let me just sit here and be quiet while a teenager dictates how our constitutional rights should be constrained, based on her vast life experience and the ability to remain objective teenagers are so well known for. Which significant life decisions do you seek guidance from children on?
By MoronEliminator (151), Montauk on Jun 10, 18 12:58 AM
I’m so proud of those kids that wore red, white and blue!
By pigroast (66), East Quogue on Jun 9, 18 11:30 PM
1 member liked this comment