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Hoover High Students Organize Peace Conference To Tackle Gun Violence

KPBS reporter Tarryn Mento (left) speaks with Hoover High School students and...

Credit: Michael Heu / Hoover High School

Above: KPBS reporter Tarryn Mento (left) speaks with Hoover High School students and peace conference organizers Makayla Siharath and Machair Adam (far right), April 8, 2019.

Most high schoolers may be focused on tackling their exams, homework and college applications, but in San Diego, a group of students at Hoover High School is also addressing gun violence. Four teens are organizing an upcoming conference to help their peers overcome the threat that they say affects their communities.

The Peace Conference Against Gun Violence at Hoover High School this month will feature a panel of victims and activists, discussions to brainstorm solutions and a resource fair.

Hoover junior and conference co-organizer Makayla Siharath said shootings aren't widely talked about among students at the City Heights-serving school, but many are impacted by them.

"Either a family member getting shot or just hearing gunshots at night and just not feeling safe in the community," Siharath said.

She said she hopes the conference will bring the topic to the forefront and provide support to students who feel at risk in their neighborhoods.

"I think we just want them to feel safer, at least get the awareness (about) gun violence or (that) they could help somebody out, and just talk to the resources that we provide at the event," Siharath said.

She and the other organizers began planning the youth conference after attending a KPBS event honoring Bishop Cornelius Bowser for his work addressing gun violence in San Diego. The former gang member spoke about how he left his violent past and now works to prevent shootings.

Co-organizer Machair Adam said the group wanted to bring that conversation to Hoover so more young people could participate.

"We thought that more youth should be involved on the topic of gun violence because I think the underlying issues start at a very young age," said Adam, a sophomore.

She said teens may feel unsafe in their communities and carry firearms for protection or follow in the paths of relatives affiliated with gangs. The event will provide resources to lead them in a different direction, she said.

"We're hoping that through this peace conference that they know there's ways that they can get out of this situation," Adam said.

Bowser will deliver opening and closing remarks at the event on April 20, which marks 20 years since the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

At the conference, the youth organizers hope to establish a year-round club against gun violence that includes students from other schools in the area. They also plan to host the event annually.

A group of San Diego high school students are hoping 200 of their peers will attend a weekend event focused on addressing the threat of guns in their neighborhoods.

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