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Peace Warriors Find Solace in Student Activism

Peace Warriors

The National Education Writers Association gathered a panel of students comprised of both survivors of school shootings and activists involved in their respective communities, such as the Peace Warriors from North Lawndale High School in Chicago. Other people involved included leaders Emma Gonzales and David Hogg of the March for Our Lives movement.

At the gathering, they conversed about student activism and how to increase youth involvement in schools. They talked about the amount of gun violence throughout the nation, for example, the Chicago shootings that have left a plethora of problems with no discernible answers for the future.

Senior Alex King of the Peace Warriors movement, situated in North Lawndale College Prep High School in the southside of Chicago, has been heavily involved with violence prevention in and out of school between students and families who wish retaliation toward their aggressors.

A day after this panel met, a shooting killed 10 students and teachers and injured 13 others at Santa Fe High School in Texas. Another shooting came only seven days later after a school resource officer interrupted a 19-year-old, who opened fire close to the Dixon High School assembly hall in Illinois, where students were practicing for graduation.

King mentioned how the gun-related deaths in Chicago have become so commonplace that most do not even bat an eye when another fatal shooting occurs in the neighborhood.

Something that has not resonated well for many Peace Warriors is that they are not viewed in a positive way. These students walk the school halls wearing their collective shirts showcasing that they will hinder any moments that include violence. There are plenty of students questioning whether or not they are simply snitches.

As many as 160 students have been affected by the loss of family members, and the dean of the school maintains a calender riddled with the names of students affected by the shooting of loved ones. Approximately half of the students on campus fill the calendar.

Gerald Smith, dean of North Lawndale College Prep High School, is still keen on portraying the students as capable of participating in a healthy discussion with those in power to create solutions to the problem facing the South Side of Chicago, and anywhere else throughout the city.

Smith began the Peace Warriors in 2009, with only 17 initial members on the school’s two campuses. They mostly handled mediating the conflicts between fellow classmates with talks and separating fights. Now, the number of Peace Warriors is over 120 currently active, all of whom work toward keeping the peace. This is exemplified by hosting and managing peace circles with the focus being on easing the tension seen on social networks and verbal fights among students.

Written by Juan Ayala
Edited by J.Smith and K. Spinney

Sources:

ABC News: ‘The next generation is us’: Chicago teen hopes to change community, gun policy through voting
US News: Violence, Grief, and Push for Change on Chicago’s West Side
Berkshire Eagle: In wake of more shootings, student activists continue the call for change

Top Image Courtesy of Pedro Szekely’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Kevin Dooley.’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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