What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
At 16, I was on a train to San Diego and deep in my biology notes when alarms began to sound and we were evacuated. Armed police urged us to run; as a fellow passenger told me, there was a gunman on the train who was threatening to shoot. Within an hour, reporters were on the scene as helicopters circled overhead and I sat, paralyzed, suddenly understanding how crazy situations like mass shootings, can unfold in an instant.
This close call compelled me into action. I began writing to raise awareness. I attended services in the UCSB college town of Isla Vista to write commemorative pieces on the anniversary of the 2014 shooting. I covered local events such as Concerts Across America, a collaborative performance organized in an effort to promote gun violence prevention through music and art. I am currently researching proposed solutions including policies to expand background checks, and will be submitting a Letter to the Editor of my local newspaper to help educate the community on the issue and suggest ways to get involved.
I am part of the first generation of students who has grown up with Lockdown Drills at school and so it makes sense that I have grown into an advocate for gun violence prevention, but I also feel it is important for other teenagers to find their voice. I participated in an “Expression Sessions” project, a gathering for people to write letters to their decision-makers. After mailing my letters, I felt more empowered in the face of political turmoil, and I want to share this project with teenagers who long for a platform to make a difference.
I am organizing my own Expression Session to provide my peers with a safe space to write to political representatives and voice their opinion on social issues they value. While my priority is finding a balance between freedom and gun safety, my goal is to encourage my generation to speak up for the change they want to see.