WASHINGTON - After two of their classmates became homicide victims, a group of D.C. students is calling for a safer city. Students from Thurgood Marshall Academy, a Southeast D.C. charter school, met with city leaders Thursday to talk about solutions to violence.
Last year, 16-year-old student, Zaire Kelly, was shot and killed in an attempted robbery. Then four months later, another student, 19-year-old Paris Brown, was also killed in a shooting.
"After Zaire, I felt numb," said senior student Lauryn Renford, who was dating Zaire. "I think Paris just added to that numbness, but I know in my mind that I couldn't become desensitized because I think that's a flaw of my community - to become desensitized to deaths because they are happening so frequently."
Renford says what followed started as an conversation in her Advanced Placement government class about creating a student-led group to look for solutions to violence. They decided to call it Pathways 2 Power.
"Ultimately, it was decision-making power and a seat at the table with people who make those decisions," she said. "So that's where Pathways 2 Power comes from."
Just a few months later, those students didn't just get a seat at the table. They got the entire table in the back of Ben's Chili Bowl. City leaders who came to listen included D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and Councilmembers Trayon White and Kenyan McDuffie.
They talked to city leaders about what would make them feel safer, with some suggesting more police on the streets and others calling for better relationships between officers and the community. Students also suggested more arts and job programs for young people.
They also shared a public service announcement they created along with GroundMedia, a Southeast DC-based strategic creative studio that has worked with Disney and National Geographic. The film is intended to inspire youth across the city to join their movement and find their voices. The students hope to see chapters of Pathways 2 Power at other D.C. schools.
"For our youth, we want them to be inspired so they know they are not helpless," said senior Anthony James.
Chief Newsham called the students efforts amazing.
"You can see the amount of talent these kids have," he said. "They're incredible."
You can follow Pathways 2 Power on Twitter at @P2PDC.