AURORA, Ohio — When talking about the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, 17-year-old Medha Kishore uses many of the words adults have repeated in the past few days: heartbreaking and infuriating.
"It's heartbreaking because innocent lives have been lost and they should have been able to grow up and experience all the joys of life like every one of us do, but at the same time, it's infuriating because it's been a decade since Sandy Hook and we've made progress but not enough progress," Kishore said.
The words of Kishore, a junior at Aurora High School, carry extra meaning because safety in school shouldn't be a concern, but it's a sad reality for many kids.
"I feel like the fear is always there like when you go to school and this can happen to anyone," she said.
But Kishore also puts her words into action.
She's one of only 13 students across the country— and the only one from Ohio— to serve on the Sandy Hook Promise National Youth Advisory Board which was created following the tragic 2012 school shooting in Connecticut that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.
Kishore takes part in town hall meetings, webinars, and a yearly national summit filled with kids looking for ways to prevent school shootings. That includes looking for warning signs that people could be at risk of hurting themselves or others and reporting potential threats on social media to trusted adults.
"We discuss together as a group and then we go to each of our individual states and help youth, like peers, advocate for mental health," she said.
She's also a leader in Aurora's SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) program which has about 70 students as members. The school started the program— also through Sandy Hook Promise— four years ago.
The students stress programs like "See Something Say Something" and "Start With Hello."
"Start With Hello is basically a program which prevents social isolation. If you see a new kid, just start with hello. Say hi. You don't know how much of a difference it will make," Kishore said.
Melissa Foster, a Spanish teacher and adviser to Aurora's SAVE Promise Club, said the club gives kids a chance to use their voice, not feel hopeless and be an agent for change.
"We might not be able to solve all the world's problems, but we can certainly make positive steps in the right direction," Foster said.
Foster said active and aware students have already made a difference.
"There have been reports in our school and other schools. I have personally— and our administrators and our resource officer— received texts in the middle of the night that somebody said this, not sure (what it means) but letting you know," Foster said.
Foster said there are about 4,000 SAVE Promise Clubs in the U.S. and 180 in Ohio. She would like to see more schools join the cause.
While talking about the problem is scary and hard, Kishore also believes teens are part of the solution.
"We have the power to make a difference," she said. "Just know that we as youth, we are changemakers and we have the power to make a difference and people will listen to us."