Gun violence, including gang-related gun violence, is unfortunately growing in America. Bullets don’t have names on them, yet they claim lives year after year. How do we reclaim our communities that are flooded with gun and gang violence?

On June 13th, young adults, along with UTEC staff and AmeriCorps members, congregated inside Cafe UTEC to discuss these concerns. Alex S., a young adult at UTEC, courageously shared a presentation on gun violence and facilitated group discussions. The event was supported by a Youth-led Community Conversations Mini Grant from United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

Alex shared her experience of being surrounded by guns as a child and how it has affected her journey into adulthood. “Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I was always around guns. My father had tons of guns around the house. Sometimes he’d let us shoot around in the backyard,” says Alex. Holding a gun made her feel empowered, but she also knew they were dangerous, especially since she personally knew victims of gun violence.

A few years later, Alex came to the United States. She was juggling a job and school until she had to face a criminal charge. “I had nothing. My family and I had to gain the strength to get back up and regain the strength we thought we had. Since then I got involved with UTEC, and that has been the best responsible decision I have made.” Working and taking HiSet classes at UTEC has been a challenge, but with the support of her peers and fellow staff members, Alex remains strong, motivated, and positive.

After showing a video clip of spoken word that related to her life, Alex facilitated a group discussion to raise awareness on gun and gang violence. She helped attendees break into small groups and shared a list of six discussion questions that she had created. Questions included “What are you fighting for?” and “How do you fight the fight without losing?”

Each group was able to present a summary of their discussion on the question that they found most thought-provoking. Then another young adult, Filix, shared his personal experience with gangs and concerns about gun violence affecting his family and friends: “There is no winning, there’s just staying out of it.”

As Alex wrapped up the group discussion, she answered one of her questions for herself: “What does being in a gang do for you besides you having protection? Nothing.”

Thanks to United Way, an organization that helps improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world, for helping young people throughout Massachusetts lead community conversations about gun violence.

 

 






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Source: Lowell Sun