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'I want to be a part of the voice': KC-area students lead community conversations about violence intervention

American Public Square at Jewell event at Kansas City Public Library
Posted at 10:10 PM, Apr 25, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo — KSHB 41 has reported about a violent couple of weeks that has impacted children in Kansas City, Missouri.

There are people in KCMO who are tired of reflecting on crime scene after crime scene.

The city has recorded 44 homicides, according to the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.

Seven homicide victims are under the age of 18. Four people under the age of 17 were suspects and 10 people between the ages of 18 and 24 were suspects.

Students at Kansas City-area high schools like Emely Velasquez are tired of hearing about it.

"This is the world we live in," Velasquez said.

On Thursday night at the Kansas City Public Library's Plaza Branch, students from Belton High School, Guadalupe Center, Lee’s Summit West High School, Olathe North High School, Shawnee Mission North High School, St. Teresa’s Academy and University Academy led a program on violence prevention.

American Public Square, an organization focused on engaging issue and fact-based conversations, allowed the students to choose the topic and bring their pressing questions directly to community leaders.

"All of us as students have been impacted by gun violence," Velasquez said. "We do drills regularly and see it on the news all the time, so it feels almost normal to us."

Students asked panelists with backgrounds in education, crime, psychiatry and government what isn't happening that needs to happen.

Their solution is prevention education to get to the root cause of crime.

"I'm curious what that would really look like implemented?" said Darian Fielder-Bey, a University Academy Student. "I'm curious if preventative education in schools where kids are in danger but also have the potential of becoming a danger how that would affect the rates of gun violence."

Reflecting isn't enough. The conversations aren't enough either. They want advocates, educators and government officials to have a seat at the table with them.

"No change ever happens from silence," Fielder-Bey said.