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Cleveland Metropolitan School District hosts after-school program that tackles social justice, gun violence

Posted at 11:16 PM, Jan 25, 2023

CLEVELAND — In a room full of change makers, what some young men and women want to see change is something that impacts them the most.

“There's a lot of things that go on and a lot of drama and a lot of people the first thing theyre ready to do is pick up a gun and kill someone,” said Zhariya Phillips.

The high schoolers are students of Civics 2.0 at Garrett Morgan Leadership Academy in Cleveland an after-school course tackling voting rights, US laws, and the important role students play in shaping the community around them.

Lately, the conversation has been centered on gun violence in our city.

“It makes me not want to take the bus home, it makes me not want to take the bus home,” said Phillips. “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’re alone walking alone.”

Gun violence is an epidemic plaguing their age group, and with shooting after shooting it can be easy to check out, but these students are checked in.

“One of my closest friends passed away due to gun violence and it made me want to fight even more because I take that so seriously,” said Arderrick McCullough.

McCullough is talking about his classmate, 16-year-old Jayden Baez, he was one of four people shot and killed in early January on Cleveland’s westside

“It was really hard for me honestly, 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 before that, an 18-year-old John Adams High School student waiting for his bus was shot and killed just a stone’s throw from school grounds.

RELATED: Student shot and killed at bus stop near John Adams high school in Cleveland

“It does make me feel on edge, it makes me wonder what someone can do to someone that’s so bad that you feel the need to go and kill them especially in front of a school,” said Phillips.

That question and more is all unpacked in Civics 2.0, students hear from gun violence victims, parents who lost their children to gun violence and some of our city’s organizations championing the fight for youth safety in Cleveland.

The instructors say this course is a grant funded CMSD after school program in 22 high schools and 11 middle schools with more than 370 students enrolled.

“Let’s get the students together let’s hear how we can change things, how we can get these kids to put the guns down, how we can stop the violence when it comes to oh you live over here, you live over there,” said Mercedes Bell.

The program encourages students to be civically engaged in their communities, find their voice and learn know how to use it.

And so far, students seem to be passing all that knowledge along being the change they want to see in their communities.

“It’s a lot of people out here that are not going to learn the things that I have, the knowledge that I have and what I can feed to the other community and feed to my other people that don’t know what I know I feel like that’s very important,” said Tatianna Williams.

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