KANSAS CITY, Mo — A group of Kansas City, Missouri, teens were recognized at the city's council meeting on Thursday.
Eighteen youth leaders with an organization called MORE2 spent their summer finding solutions to violence in the community.
MORE2 fights for racial equity through public policy.
Jeffery Johnson, 13, was one of the students in the summer youth leadership corps. He is fired up for change, using his voice to bring awareness to the issue and to proactively communicate on solutions.
“We can’t keep on letting this happen, you know, we can’t let this happen in our schools, we can’t let this happen on the streets, we can’t let this happen no where,” Johnson said. “I gotta speak out about this."
The teen's efforts come as KCMO continues a deadly stretch of violence. In 2022, the city has recorded 102 homicides.
But the effort also hits close to home for Johnson.
In just 13 years on earth, he has already buried a classmate to youth violence. He says hate and spite is everywhere, and violence is not the solution for conflict resolution.
Johnson believes change starts with awareness, communication and willingness from all parties to sit at the table.
He also thinks more people should push politicians to enact initiatives into laws.
“We can’t let future generations keep on kicking the can, we need support from our young people, our old people, you know middle aged. All that type of stuff,” Johnson said. “We gotta join together as a community. I gotta, we gotta all help. I gotta over communicate like I said. Bring even more awareness to this. Not only to our community, but to our politicians.”
At the end of the summer leadership core program, students proposed a solution to create a community hot line to reduce violence.
A resolution was proposed by KCMO councilwoman Melissa Robinson to bring this idea to fruition.
The city manager will do a feasibility study to see what is needed and possible to launch as an official program.
“Young kids have always been a part of the civil rights movements throughout the nation, and certainly they were getting arrested with Dr. King in Birmingham, and they were marching in Montgomery, and boycotting buses and it just makes sense to do it," Lora McDonald, executive director at MORE2, said. "For us, it was just a matter of following history and what worked."
The hot line was the idea of a 14-year-old named Giulian Williams. He lost his own brother, who was 16 at the time of the incident, to gun violence.
“So yeah that’s a big part of it,” Williams said. “If they get help before anything escalates, probably save a life."