In the first half of 2019, Owensboro has seen a rise in gun violence, which has brought an awareness — and the demand for change — to the forefront of some Owensboro communities.
Not much attention has been dedicated to the impact of gun violence on Owensboro’s children, according to after-school teacher Ashley Hester, known as Ms. Ashley at the H.L. Neblett Community Center, so she opened the discussion — and then listened to her students last week after the deaths of two juveniles and one that was hospitalized after being shot.
On June 3, a whole classroom discussion addressing questions, fears and opinions led to the students in Ms. Ashley’s after -school class to decide that “enough was enough.”
Maleah Potter is in the after-school program and said that after the group talked about the “sad events,” and that children were being killed, they began discussing their community.
“Ms. Ashley shared the information with us, and when I talked to my mom, she said it needed to stop, too,” Potter said.
Ms. Ashley and the after-school students began brainstorming ways to include themselves in the campaign to bring awareness to the community. They believe that it is time for people to step up and have a voice.
What began as a discussion led to students asking for a march around the center, complete with hand-lettered signs to create a more visible element for the kids who are so innocently asking for change in our community.
Andrew Brothers, another of Ms. Ashley’s students, said that his family had been talking about the events for a week and that they were all aware of what it meant for them.
“Everyone knows [about the deaths], and now my family wants to protect themselves,” Brothers said.
Although he said that he does feel safe because several family members live in his home, he also commented that when he walks to the corner store he often wants someone to walk with him.
Konner Kiper, another of Ms. Ashley’s students said that when they started talking about how they felt about people being killed in the community, especially teenagers, they all decided enough was enough for gun violence.
Ms. Ashley said that, after the discussions, the kids really wanted to have a voice about the violence and hope to make a change. While they marched, which Potter emphasized was on “a very hot day,” people who were driving past the kids were honking, waving and giving thumbs up gestures to the kids.
“I felt really proud we were doing it,” said Potter. “It’s just too much [violence].”
Ms. Ashley said the students are still having discussions about actions they can take to speak out, and that this week, they are involving community members in the discussions.
The students have also had discussions about being responsible and saying something if you know something, along with how to be an example for younger children.
This week they will be making T-shirts in the after-school program as another visual reminder of the children’s feelings on gun violence.
“They just want to have a voice, speak up and make a change,” Ms. Ashley said.