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Chula Vista Students Raise $18,000 For Gun Violence Documentary

In just over two weeks a group of Chula Vista high school juniors have passed their goal of raising $18,000 through the fundraising site Kickstarter. The money will support an unconventional school project.

Chula Vista Students Raise $18,000 For Gun Violence Documentary
High school students in Chula Vista have raised more than $18,000 to fund a documentary that asks, what can be done to curb gun violence?

At High Tech High Chula Vista students take math, science and humanities classes. In a typical year they also work on 5 or 6 group projects that are based on real-world problems.

But one group of 45 juniors is devoting the whole school year to one ambitious project — a documentary about what can be done to reduce gun violence. Kamila Castaneda is part of the group and said they lost their classmate Sean Fuchs in 2011, when he and his brother Kyle were killed by their father, who then took his own life.


“It just has taken its toll on our team and we just want to look for things to reduce it," she said. "We all have our own personal connections to it. And we want to look in depth at why it keeps happening and why no one is doing something about it.”

The students are looking for answers other than gun control.

The teachers advising the students have their own connections to gun violence. Humanities teacher Matt Simon came to High Tech High Chula Vista last year from a school in Los Angeles County where he knew students who were shot. And biology teacher Nuvia Crisol Ruland is close friends with a family that lost a child in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year.

Simon said the idea for the documentary came together after the Sandy Hook shooting. While watching news coverage in class his students wondered why the event was such a big deal.

"This happens all the time," is how he said they reacted. When Simon and Ruland asked students how they would like to examine the issue of gun violence, they said a documentary.


Now they're looking at issues like mental health services and the juvenile justice system. They're hoping the funds they're raising can help visit communities across the country affected by gun violence and come up with projects that can make a tangible difference.

“Can they do any of this? I don’t know," Simon said. "But I will say that when we first told people what we were trying to do — raise $18,000 for this project or possibly a lot more — almost everybody wrote us off.”

The students will not only shoot and edit the film, they’re also learning about branding, fundraising, public relations and social media marketing. They’re calling their project Beyond the Crossfire.