In our “Victory Over Violence” series, NewsChannel 9 is shifting the focus from mugshots and arrests to impact and solutions.
We will highlight people and programs making a difference in our community in the fight against crime.
This week we are highlighting the “Gators Against Violence Coalition” at Grant Middle School in Syracuse. In just the last year, the school has lost three former or current students to violence, but this special group of students are using their voices to change lives.
“I joined this group because it could help me help others help our community,” said Charmae Perdue, student member of Gators Against Violence.
Students in the group say they are fed up and that families are traumatized because of the violence in the City of Syracuse.
They have detailed their experiences in letters to city officials, pleading for something to be done.
“I joined Gators Against Violence because one day when I was walking home from school I saw two grown men in a car and they were selling drugs. That made me feel unsafe and I want to change the community so kids can see another day,” said Yahye Farah, student member of Gators Against Violence.
What he witnesses during the week, robs him of a simple childhood. Riding his bike or just spending time with friends…no longer a daily option.
“Everytime when I look outside I don’t see kids playing because their parents are afraid they will get kidnapped killed or abused,” Farah said.
That’s why they are writing letters to spark thought and help transform troubled schools and neighborhoods.
A few doors down in another classroom, another part of the coalition is creating safe boxes for their classmates to report concerns.
“I think we have all been through a certain type of violence whether it is domestic or gun violence, so we all just kind of came together and made ideas to stop it not only in school but in the streets too,” said Anejor Lawrence-Crawley, student member of Gators Against Violence.
They are also creating posters and t-shirt designs with anti-violence messaging. Standing behind all of these students as they work, is a silent army of educators giving them a voice, while navigating through their own pain.
“I’ve been here for four years and I lost a kid to violence two years ago and the most disturbing thing is one of the kids involved in the murder was a kid I taught at another school, so I said if that bothers me as an adult, its got to be bothering the kids,” said Sean MacMaster, teacher and founder of Gators Against Violence.
The group he started a few months ago has become an outlet for students. It helps them have those tough conversations and develop solutions to deal with the trauma.
The students hope their movement spreads to other schools and neighborhoods to cut down on violence in the City of Syracuse.