Lauren Milgram has a mission. The sweet and funny, shy yet confident, 12-year-old will join an anticipated hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Our Lives in Washington on Saturday.
The screams for change by survivors of a school shooting are very personal for her. Because for almost half her life, Lauren has been a survivor, too.
Back on December 14, 2012, Lauren was trapped inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, after a man shot his way inside the school. By the time it was over, the shooter had fired more than 150 rounds, and taken the lives of 26 people, including 20 children from kindergarten and first grade, and six adults.
Lauren was a first-grader, just 6 years old. Her quick-thinking teacher crammed 15 students into a tiny bathroom off the classroom, saving all of their lives and her own.
At home in Newtown, where her family was busy making signs for Saturday’s march, Lauren says: “I’m marching because I don’t want this to happen to any other children. It shouldn’t have happened, and we really do need more safety.”
Lauren lost many friends at school that day. Five and a half years later, she doesn’t talk about it much, but she still remembers.
The student still wears a heart necklace given to her by Daniel Barden, one of her classmates who was killed. Her mother, Erin Milgram, says, “She wears it when she wants to think of him.”
Now a sixth grader, Lauren believes she can make a difference by marching on Washington.
Like many others, she is inspired by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas calling for gun control after their school in Parkland, Florida, became the scene of a massacre.
“It’s amazing that the Parkland students are doing it already,” she says. “They’re so ahead in this generation, at this age they’re making such a big difference.”
Along with her parents and her 15-year-old brother, Dalton, who was in the fourth grade at Sandy Hook when the shooting occurred, Lauren is frustrated that so little has changed at the federal level regarding gun laws.
Since 2015, there have been at least 167 school shootings in the United States.
Years after Lauren was nearly killed, she can’t understand why students aren’t better protected from gunfire.
“We can’t keep living like this,” she says. “It should’ve happened a long time ago… after all these shootings there really should have been change.”
She has kept up with the policy discussion, and worries about the suggested solution of arming teachers. “Maybe if a teacher had a gun she could leave it on a table and a kid could see it on the table and take it.”
Come Saturday, this 12-year-old girl who loves to bake homemade strawberry cobbler and key lime pie, will be doing nothing of the sort.
Instead, at 5 a.m., she’ll board a bus in Newtown with her family, heading for Washington.
Lauren’s father, Eric Milgram, says it is time to move the country forward.
“These Parkland kids – my hats off to them. My kids sadly weren’t old enough to speak out. My son was in the fourth grade. Highest grade at Sandy Hook but not old enough. But we, as parents, I won’t say that we failed them, but we were too polite to speak out.”
Her mother, Erin, agrees. “We can speak out and make a difference, use a platform, and hopefully change people’s minds … this makes us feel like we’re doing something when we go as a family,” she says.
Lauren is full of hope for her future and future generations. In the shadow of the US Capitol, she’ll be raising her sign which reads ‘#Enough’, mighty high for all to see.
CNN’s Rachel Schleifstein and Nora Neus contributed to this story.