Ending the Tragedy of Gun Violence--Sparking Civil Activism at School
What is the injustice we are solving?
I hope to start a club at my school that revolves around us becoming engaged civil activists and leaders who initiate projects that can benefit the school, the community, and beyond. Too often we see that young people want to create change--whether it be hosting a clothing drive for those less fortunate or beginning an environmental campaign for zero waste--but don't know where to start or how to realize those aspirations; something which described me. In launching this club I hope to rally together a family of diverse, compassionate, and selfless leaders who can come together, explore campaigns of interest (political, social, environmental, etc.), and engender a lasting impact through our efforts. The first injustice we shall solve is one of the most pressing of our time--ending gun violence, especially in schools. Through our efforts, we will strive to rally our school together to contact our representatives about gun control legislation via signing petitions, writing letters, et cetera. We will mail these letters to our reps, organize meetings to promote awareness and set up presentations to share with our school and our community.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of Curbing gun violence, especially in our schools. This will be one spark towards a broader movement of promoting civil activism at our school.
we will address The need for stricter gun regulations, to protect the lives of students and staff in our schools and beyond.
by organizing events for anyone interested at our school to come together, sign petitions, write letters and notes to our state representatives and government officials demanding more stringent and comprehensive gun control legislation.
Our Project Plan:
- To rally members of our school and community together to voice our concerns about gun violence.
- To promote in students the recognition that we all can impact and transform injustices we notice, large or small, near or far.
- To ignite a conversation about gun violence and other pressing injustices we face as human beings today.
- To reach out to our local, state, and national representatives and request legal action be taken to protect lives from gun violence.
- To inspire ourselves and each other that together, progress is possible and powerful.
We will increase my / our compassion by...
We will always be cognizant of the fact that gun violence is a tragedy that should not be a reality. Through our meetings, we will discuss the issue of gun violence with sensitivity. Even if we have differing opinions or points of disagreement, we will promote an environment of listening and understanding, acknowledging and reconciling our diverse perspectives. We will reach compromises, tweak our solutions, and build off of each other; we seek a productive conversation and meaningful collaboration. Through reaching out to our representatives, we will address them with respect but urgency, and we will remember that only by cooperation can we all achieve this objective of ending gun violence and establish ourselves as empathic and kind civil activists. One sub-project I hope we can embark on is to create an art mural at our school to commemorate lives touched or lost to gun violence, and also how we, as civil activists, can honor these individuals. We can discuss ideas further at our meetings, but for now, I imagine even something as simple as a mural of multicolored post-it-notes or an art-board with messages to individuals affected by gun violence or quotes about how we can rally together to spark change. Following our efforts to ignite a conversation and effort to combat gun violence at our own school, we will be open and ecstatic to identify other injustices and pursue these objectives. For instance, later I hope to start a shoe drive to collect shoes for those in need, especially the homeless or those in poverty, in greater Cleveland (the city where I'm from) and beyond. Additionally, I seek to initiate a zero-waste campaign at my school, with the goal of reducing landfill waste and instead promoting composting and recycling among ourselves.
How will you show courage?
In spite of any doubt, skepticism, or derision we may face from our peers or others due to the magnitude of our desired impact, we will not falter. We will continue this movement. If individuals express objection, we will gladly listen to any concerns or suggestions they have, and in turn grow and improve our efforts. We will proudly showcase our support of promoting safety in schools and beyond with making banners to post and buttons to wear. Despite setbacks or challenges, we will maintain our grit, and grind forward! Activism is about pursuing positive action for social change, and even with friction, our wheels must continue turning in order for us to progress forward.
How will you collaborate with others?
The entirety of this project and effort will be a team one. I have a group of friends and teachers who are supporting this endeavor. Many of my friends have already volunteered to help me make posters and spread the word about our meetings, and I've bounced my ideas off of several teachers. We will promote our efforts and our meetings via our school network, social media, and other means of connecting with our peers. Furthermore, we will keep our attendees updated with news and our progress. Our endeavor for diminishing gun violence involves our representatives, whom we will reach out to with firmness but respect, and we will be perceptive that this is a nationwide effort that requires all of us to be understanding and listen to each other. Also, we will encourage everyone to write letters/notes and express their opinions, but we will foster group conversations to inspire ideas or thoughts. Anyone who wants to is welcome to help us mail off these letters; afterward, we will submit ideas for future activist pursuits!
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
Following our meetings, we will ask anyone interested to complete a brief survey so they can describe their experience at the meeting and tell us of any improvements they would like to see for future meetings. We will also host a suggestion box so people can drop off ideas for future activist projects, and we can discuss these at later meetings and pursue them! We see this activist project as ongoing and hope it will be long-lasting. Tackling gun-violence as a community is our first pursuit, but it will definitely not be our last. We will always remain dedicated to doing whatever we can to be a part of positive change in our community and world, in whatever direction this dream may take us. :)
- Research how we can rally together to ignite this activist movement (already done)
- Put together a presentation about how we can all add our voices to this movement (already done)
- Compile a list of contact information for state and national reps (in progress)
- Obtain approval from school teacher(s)/faculty member(s) to host students in their classroom during these activist meetings (already done!)
- Make/design posters, flyers, banners to promote these meetings. Obtain permission from the school to put these up, and then hang these up around the school. (in progress)
- Share/Present my presentation with the school body to encourage adoption of this activist effort.
- Invite anyone interested to my meetings through talking to fellow students/faculty, posting on social media platforms, spreading the news via word of mouth
- Obtain paper, stationery, poster board, pens, envelopes, stamps, etc. for students to use to write and send letters and notes to our representatives. Also, buy snacks for students to help fuel their thoughts.
- Collect student letters/notes and place stamps on the envelopes, then mail these out to the desired recipients (state or national reps, etc.)
- Request meeting attendees complete a brief survey to tell us of their experience, and let us know of any suggestions they have for future improvements.
- Thank students for their efforts via a thank you card, and encourage them to stay tuned to further activist efforts to come...
- Establish an anonymous suggestion box where anyone can submit ideas for future activist projects they would like to see us pursue together
- Continue further and future activist pursuits! :)
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
Through doing this project, we conducted a lot of research, about the causes, the means, and the effects of gun violence on individuals, schools, and communities, as well as how we can come together to end this national epidemic. I put together a slideshow presentation to share at our meetings, which let me learn about the most effective way to present the issue--with stark statistics and figures, clear identification of the problem, and a list of several potential solutions. I learned that there are a complex history and national identity that is related to gun ownership and use, but that gun violence as an injustice does not come from guns themselves but rather the abuse of guns. By pushing for legislative measures such as mandatory education and training programs as well as universal background checks for all gun purchases, we can ensure that guns are used in a secure way and prevent shootings from occurring. The injustice of gun violence arises from individuals who abuse guns, therefore we can counter this and push for change via advocating for gun safety. I witnessed firsthand the power of student voices when many more kids than I expected showed up to our meeting to write letters to our representatives. We have the initiative to end this injustice, and by amplifying our voices, we can change the narrative of gun violence.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
I saw our school--students, teachers, and faculty alike--become more active. People came to our meetings and wrote such heartfelt yet firm letters to our reps demanding for change, demanding for action to end gun violence.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
I included the students and teachers who participated in our meetings to write letters to our reps; the students and teachers who signed our poster petition; and the representatives and leaders that we wrote to. This number would not include the people whose lives would ideally be impacted by our efforts--students and civilians who are no longer threatened by the prevalence of gun violence
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
We researched news stories, interviews, social media posts, articles, statistics, and more about the effects of gun violence on students, on parents, teachers, civilians, city officials, representatives, and leaders. We did research online and also talked with fellow students and teachers to gain a broader perspective. We looked at sister movements like the March for Our Lives organized by the students at Parkland and we also studied current petitions and activist efforts run by organizations such as Everytown for Gun Safety. Really, virtually every citizen is affected by or has heard of the horrifying reality that gun violence poses to our safety, and we were able to see that gun violence is truly an issue that can affect anyone.
What did your team learn?
We learned to work together, to be courageous, to take risks. We weren't sure of what to expect from conducting these meetings, we weren't sure if people would want to come, we weren't sure if we could encourage people to actively participate. However, we witnessed firsthand that any one of us can have an impact, but when we speak together, our voices are the loudest. We are the people, and we do have the capacity to drive change.
What challenges did your team overcome?
There were some individuals who thought that our mission was pointless, that our actions such as writing letters and signing petitions and hosting meetings would not amount to anything, because we were not powerful or influential enough to change the opinions of reps. This mentality of doubt was one that we refuted and we continued regardless. Additionally, some individuals did not want to write letters but still wanted to contribute, so I found a compromise in having them sign the poster petition. That way they could still join the movement to express concerns about the gun violence epidemic while not necessarily having to write letters.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
I invited anyone interested to come to our meetings, write letters, and/or sign the poster petition. I talked with friends, teachers, and classmates about their opinions regarding the issue of gun violence. I presented my slideshow presentation to teachers and our principal to solicit feedback. I asked our student activities coordinator to print out posters advertising the meetings which I hung up around the school, and I also posted the flyer on my social media accounts and in my group chats to encourage everyone to attend. The day prior to the meeting I actually went around to tables during lunch and invited fellow students to come to our meetings and get involved. I worked with my economics teacher Miss O to set up the meetings in her room and work out how we were going to execute everything. At the meetings, I gave my presentation and then took questions from students and teachers. I went around the room helping people figure out what they wanted to write about and had each one of the meeting attendees as well as anyone interested to sign our poster petition. I took suggestions from friends and our meetings were featured in the school newspaper too. Evidently, activism is a team effort, and I'm proud to have been a leader of such a worthwhile project.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
Believe in the power that you possess. Never give up.
Presenting my slideshow presentation at our #NeverAgain Meetings!Jing-Jing S. 30 May 2018 15:04 This is a picture taken by our school newspaper editors of me giving the presentation I made regarding the gun violence epidemic to the attendees of our meetings. At this meeting, I went over the history, the causes, the facts and statistics, and the effects of gun violence on communities and individuals, as well as how we can come together to call for action from our reps, leaders, and ourselves to ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again.
Caption: "By speaking up we can actually push for change," Shen said. "Writing letters is something small yet impactful that anyone can do, and it shows that we care. We want change." Photo by Nakita Reidenbach
Flyer for #NeverAgain MeetingsJing-Jing S. 30 May 2018 15:07 This is the flyer I made for our meetings. It features the hashtag #NeverAgain and the logo for the March for Our Lives to acknowledge the action sparked by students after the Parkland shooting.
Meeting In Action!Jing-Jing S. 30 May 2018 15:16 Here is an image of students and teachers writing letters to our reps on postcards and signing the poster petition!
My Letter to our Reps!Jing-Jing S. 30 May 2018 15:19 This is the letter I wrote to our Senators, Representatives, and Governor.
Our Efforts Featured in the School NewspaperJing-Jing S. 30 May 2018 15:21 The article is available here! https://bcomber.org/news/2018/05/19/students-take-action-against-gun-violence/
It was also published in our print school newspaper.
Our Poster PetitionJing-Jing S. 3 June 2018 22:39 Our poster petition to Congress to take action to end gun violence. Students, teachers, and more signed it.
4 August 2018 19:00
4 August 2018 18:59
Thanks again! -Jing
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So I know that a lot of students, including myself, can empathize more with something if we confront it. I was thinking about not just having students hear about (inspirational) refugee stories--people who have been working tirelessly to lift themselves up out of the lowest period in their lives--but also having them imagine what it is like. I have actually already gotten in touch with a representative for the UNHCR (refugee agency), and I asked if they had any materials I could give out to donors. She said she could send me stickers and postcards. Something students can maybe take with them and think about, even longer after they've contributed to the cause... of course we would also have the standard flyers, posters, social media posts, videos...
4 August 2018 18:20
4 August 2018 18:19
Version 1: Whichever grade raises the most money wins. Everyone puts in quarters, nickles, dimes, pennies and it's standard counting.
Version 2: Quarters are positive points, nickles are negative points, dimes are negatives, pennies are positive. In this version, you put the nickles and dimes in the jars belonging to other years and you put the positive coins in your own grade's jar. Whichever year has the most net "points" wins.
Luckily, refugees are a relatively very easy group to empathize with. What are some strategies you had in mind with connecting with the student body and making them epathize?
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I can do any time after 6:50 PM EST tomorrow. I can be free any time during the weekend as well.
1 August 2018 22:37
How about Thursday at 5PM?
1 August 2018 22:36
Thanks for understanding. Jeremiah and I are going to be chatting soon!
1 August 2018 14:55
Both Thursday and Friday work great for me! What time should we start chatting on here?
1 August 2018 10:30
Sad to hear you can't make it! Thanks for letting us know. How's your project going?
31 July 2018 19:40
Thanks for the comment! As much as I would love to attend the event, I do not think I will be able to make it that day. However, thank you very much for the invitation!
31 July 2018 15:52
I wanted to check in and make sure that you knew about the first-ever Peace First Summit happening on September 16th in New York City. This event will lift up the stories of young people who are changing the world, right now.
We are flying out five young people who completed the Peace First Challenge to share their stories of change onstage, connect with Peace First fellows, get advice from a Brain Trust, and receive peer mentoring from a Peace First Fellow.
We want you (or a member of your team) to apply to be featured at the Summit! You can start your application right here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd6X9fTrSTC6PoXjLpVUtNlJgZHbd5QdB6-hgxlC-d7DBlK_g/viewform You must submit your application by tomorrow, Wednesday, August 1st. If you have any questions, please let me know!
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24 July 2018 20:51
Thank you for the comment, and I am excited to work with you, too! I apologize for the late response--I wasn't able to see your comment up until just now and was trying to figure out what was going on. I think we can chat any weekday this week; maybe after 5PM? Please let me know if this works for you. (P.S. I'm not sure if you'll be able to see this comment as I couldn't reply to yours...)
18 July 2018 16:34
30 January 2018 15:42
What are your next steps? Do you have a group of people who will help you create and lead this club? How can we help?
31 January 2018 19:43
My next steps would be to outline exactly which injustices I want to help solve through this club. I hope to organize a clothing and shoe drive (at my school) for those less fortunate in the downtown Cleveland area; host a fundraiser for refugees and natural disaster victims; and promote a campaign for zero waste at my school.
I have friends who would support me through this and I hope to recruit more people. I would greatly appreciate it if you had any advice to guide me through this. Once I have an idea, do I independently contact outside organizations (like UNICEF or city food banks) so we can send them the items and money we collect through drives, or is it better to try to do so on our own?
Thanks so much.
1 February 2018 14:48
Sounds like you have a lot of folks involved, too. I'd start by getting your friends together for an initial planning meeting, then asking each of them to bring additional friends to the next meeting -- and reaching out to folks you know are interested in social change at your school! Let people know the purpose of the club and what you hope to do -- as you've just told me.
I think generally it can be better to work with local organizations to distribute the materials you collect, because sending things internationally can have a high cost and you'll be able to impact your own community. But you should send out the resources you collect in whatever way makes sense for you!
2 February 2018 9:29
Wow--you have so many great ideas! I love your enthusiasm and initiative, and how you're already thinking about each step of your plan. That will help you out a lot as you get started and see your project through. It's also great that you have a bunch of people ready to help out and support this work--I'm impressed!
Peace First has many tools that can help you create a successful project. The first step is deciding what injustice you want to focus on for your first project. You have so many great ideas, and it's helpful to pick one to start. We have a number of tools for deciding what you want to focus on. If you go to peacefirst.org/resources, you can check them out--try some of the "choose" tools, and, if you're working with a more cohesive team, see what they want to focus on first.
Once you've decided what you'd like to focus on, we'll move to the next part of the process. :) Let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way!
11 March 2018 21:14
Hi there! I see you’ve already been exchanging with other members of Peace First. I'm also a member of the Peace First team and wanted to provide you with some feedback on your Compassionate Insight. We encourage you to use this feedback as you continue to progress through the Planning phase. If you apply for a mini-grant, your Insight will be one of the things we consider.
I cannot think of a more important time for your project and congratulate you on a wonderful idea. My suggestions are to clearly focus your objectives – this will help a great deal as you move in to Planning.
• “What is the injustice you are solving for?” I love what you wrote – because you are creating the vision for what you want to accomplish. I suggest that what’s written isn’t exactly the injustice itself. I think you’ve written this below, in the Compassion Solutions section when you address that you want to protect the lives of students and staff in your schools. I suggest that maybe this is the injustice you are solving – that schools are not safe for students and staff and that is what you want to address. You can talk a bit about this in this section. Why are the students and staff not safe?
• “To solve this injustice of” creating safer environments in our schools you will……What specifically will you do? I suggest you select from much of what is already written (because it’s here) and this will provide real clarity.
• “We will address”…..if gun regulation is your goal, than I encourage you to be specific around how you will accomplish this in the “by” section. For example, you might sync your activities with some of the other mobilization efforts going on around the country.
Good luck! I think this is an important and very timely project!
26 March 2018 10:51
We're excited to hear more about your ideas to address this important injustice! I wanted to let you know about an opportunity -- if you are interested in getting some funding for materials that you need to carry out your project, you can apply for a mini-grant of up to $250.
The deadline to submit your Project Plan and Mini-Grant Application is March 31st if you want to remain eligible to apply to attend a Peace First Accelerator.
As you craft your plan, be sure to consider the feedback we gave you on your compassionate insight, and check out our project planning tools for help turning your insight into a concrete action plan: https://www.peacefirst.org/plan-your-project
Then, through your dashboard you can make any changes you want to make to your "compassionate insight," record your plan in "Make a plan" and then "Apply for a mini-grant" for the materials you need.
Let us know if you have questions or if we can help in any way. We're looking forward to supporting your project!
31 March 2018 22:23
I just saw this message. Thank you for all of the advice! I've decided to focus my project first on one of the most pressing pursuits of our time--gun violence. As civil activists in school, our first objective will be voicing our concerns to our representatives and promoting awareness of the issue at our school.
This is our first goal, but it most certainly won't be our last. I hope to have many meetings for future activist pursuits, from a shoe-drive for those in need in greater Cleveland to a zero-waste campaign at our school, to any other ideas proposed by our students and faculty! I'm excited to see what directions our ideas will take us :)
31 March 2018 22:26
I just saw your message; thanks for all of the advice! I'm in the midst of organizing a presentation and meeting for us to pursue our first (but definitely not last) objective of voicing our concerns about gun violence to our representatives.
I think this is a decent first step towards outreach, and with future projects, I hope to start local (as you suggested!) such as with a shoe drive for individuals in need in Cleveland (the city where I live) and then expand outwards from there. Also, I'd like to initiate a campaign for zero-waste at our school and see if we can grow that movement to other schools as well.
I will be sure to take into account all this advice!
31 March 2018 22:30
I just saw your message! Thank you for all of your advice. I revised my project based on this insight and hope it better reflects our objectives now...
2 April 2018 11:35
Very exciting! Love all your ideas. What are ways you think gun violence should be addressed?
2 April 2018 14:15
5 April 2018 15:01
Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.
The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below
This is a really strong plan and you've clearly put a lot of time and thought into how to set your project up for success, by listing out in detail all the steps you need to take along the way, and beginning the process of engaging supporters and allies within your school community. I also love that you are thinking about how to reach beyond your school to engage with political representatives in a practical way to advocate for change. One of the things I'm most excited about is that you are both focusing on a specific current issue (gun violence) as well as planning to build out a longer-term project that enables young people to be more civically engaged and will prepare you all to take action on a whole range of issues in future.
Things to consider:
One thing to consider is how your work on the issue of gun control can be supported by the broader gun control movement. There is so much awesome youth-led work being done on this issue right now – perhaps there are ways you can connect up with other groups and initiatives to learn from each other’s experiences and amplify one another's efforts. I also wondered how your work around the issue of gun violence might be strengthened by finding ways to listen to and incorporate the personal experiences of survivors of gun violence.
Finally, I encourage you to think about some concrete measures of success you could set for yourself over the next couple of months (the period covered by your Peace First mini-grant). There are a range of measures you might want to consider, for example, the number of sessions you hold, the number of students who attend your activities, number of letters sent to representatives, etc. These are just thought-starters - building on your feedback box idea! - which could help you to make sure that you're staying on track.
Congratulations and best of luck with your project!
30 May 2018 14:49
Thanks for this message! Now that I've finished my project (although I like to think it is still ongoing), I want to say that I implemented some of your suggestions, and the project was really successful beyond what I had previously expected.
Thanks for this awesome feedback,
30 May 2018 16:23
30 May 2018 20:06
Thanks for the comment! It was definitely a valuable and awesome experience. I hope to do similar projects in the future!
6 June 2018 17:25
Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:
Great work carrying out this project! I see strong courage, compassion, and collaboration in your work -- I am particularly impressed by the way that you worked to hear a wide range of perspectives on the issues, involve a range of stakeholders, and the research you did to understand the issue of gun violence more deeply -- to better inform your efforts to reach out to decision makers. It seems that you have approached this -- difficult -- topic from a place of compassion and a willingness to deeply listen to different viewpoints -- which is so important as a peacemaker! As you continue this work, I encourage you to keep doing this and to keep asking questions! You shared that gun violence is an issue that truly can affect anyone -- and that is absolutely true! However, I'd also encourage you to think about which groups or communities might be disproportionately impacted by gun violence and why? This may help you to build a movement that is as inclusive and impactful as possible.
Keep up the INCREDIBLE work! Your perseverance is so important -- it is a great testament to your courage as a peacemaker that despite voices telling you that this might be impossible, you want to keep at it.
We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!