DC teens address gun violence, mental health at Youth Summit

The 3rd annual D.C. Youth Summit, held Wednesday night, gave the District’s young people a chance to talk straight to city leaders about problems in their communities and their ideas for solutions. 

D.C. Girls Coalition, D.C. Action, and other youth advocacy organizations facilitated the conversation with representatives from the mayor’s office, D.C. Public Schools, city council, and health and human services among others. 

The young people say they are trying to solve the problems that adults just can’t get a handle on. 

"I've been so devastated that all these things have been going on and the city leaders ain't doing nothing to share to the youth and the parents in the communities," said Ayoka Miller-Agamyemi,15, and one of the breakout group facilitators. 

"I'm tired of losing people I love the most and I think gun violence should be ended, and I think we need more recreation centers," said Andre Wilson who is in middle school. 

The organizers say the young people have unique lived experiences regarding some of the biggest issues facing the community, like violence and mental health, and have real ideas for solutions 

"They know what is needed they know it can’t be just bandaid solutions. They know you have to get to the root causes of issues which does take money and time,"said Kristi Matthews Jones, director, D.C. Girls Coalition.

RELATED: Youth guidance program aims to quell juvenile violence in DC

Top of mind for some young people Wednesday night, mental health and the need for more counselors in schools. 

"If we helped more on working on teens and their mental health and emotional support then they would do way better," said Tonajea Mixon, 16. 

Many students also raised concerns about the state of public schools. Some say their buildings need basic supplies like soap, toilet paper, and paper towels in bathrooms. 

And of course, there’s the issue of gun violence. Two different teens told FOX 5 that more rec centers with activities would make a big difference. 

RELATED: DC's Achievement Centers aim to combat youth violence

"Instead of hanging outside and dying from gun violence, you could be inside the recreation center playing football or basketball or sports," Wilson said. 

Andre Wilson

Andre Wilson is only in middle school but lost his father and a friend to gun violence. 

"It goes on and on and on and don't stop. Like a war," he said. 

Wilson tells us summits like this have the power to stop that war, especially if more kids get involved. Next, the young anti-violence advocates plan to bring a list of demands compiled from this summit to city leaders.