CMSD after-school program tackles social justice, gun violence
CLEVELAND – In a room full of changers, what some young men and women want to change is what influences them the most.
“There’s a lot of things that happen and a lot of drama and a lot of people who are the first thing that’s willing to pick up a gun and kill someone,” Zhariya Phillips said.
The high schoolers are students of Civics 2.0 at Cleveland’s Garrett Morgan Leadership Academy, an after-school course that explores voting rights, U.S. laws, and the important role students play in shaping the communities around them.
Recently, the conversation has focused on gun violence in our city.
“It makes me not take the bus home, it makes me not take the bus home,” Phillips said. “It makes me not want to leave the house or go anywhere with my friends, it makes me extremely paranoid when my friends tell me they are traveling alone.”
Gun violence is an epidemic that plagues her age group and with shot after shot it can be easy to verify, but these students get checked in.
“One of my closest friends died from gun violence and I wanted to fight more because I take it so seriously,” said Arderrick McCullough.
McCullough speaks about his classmate, 16-year-old Jayden Baez, who was one of four people shot dead on Cleveland’s west side in early January
“It was really hard for me to be honest, I wouldn’t stop crying because I was like, what can I do, what should I do? I couldn’t even believe it,” he said.
Just four days earlier, an 18-year-old student at John Adams High School was shot and killed just a stone’s throw from school grounds while waiting for his bus.
TIED TOGETHER: Students shot dead at bus stop near John Adams High School in Cleveland
“It makes me nervous, I wonder what anyone could do to someone so bad that you feel the need to kill them, especially in front of a school,” Phillips said.
This question and more is included in Civics 2.0, students hear from victims of gun violence, parents who have lost their children to gun violence, and some of our city’s organizations dedicated to fighting to keep Cleveland youth safe.
Instructors say this course is a grant-funded CMSD afterschool program in 22 high schools and 11 middle schools with more than 370 enrolled students.
“Let’s get the students together, let’s hear how we can change things, how we can get these kids to put down their guns, how we can stop the violence when it comes to, oh, you live over here, you live over there,” said Mercedes Glocke.
The program encourages students to become civic leaders in their communities, find their voice, and learn how to use it.
And so far, the students seem to be passing on all of that knowledge, which is the change they want to see in their communities.
“There’s a lot of people out here that aren’t going to learn the things that I have, the knowledge that I have and what I can pass on to the other community and pass on to my other people who don’t know what I feel that is very important,” said Tatianna Williams.
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