By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 20, 2020
Dozens of students, ranging from middle school to college-aged, shared what they believe needs to be improved in the community.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Community leaders and dozens of students gathered for a youth forum addressing mental health, gun violence and other topics following Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. rally in Tallahassee.
The forum's goal was to allow the youth to be honest and open, while local officials from the Leon County sheriff's office and school board, NAACP, office of the State Attorney and City of Tallahassee listened.
Students ranging from middle school to college-aged shared what they believe needs to be improved in the community.
"Here is the perfect first step to be heard by your leaders, and be heard by your community," Katherine Allen, a freshman at Florida state University, said.
Allen was a witness to the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Experiencing gun violence is a common thread she shares with students like Terrance McPherson, who has lost friends to bullets.
"Guns are useless," McPherson said. "You are hurting, taking another man's life away, another person's life away."
The student panel and members of the audience also addressed mental health, better school programs, more leadership presence and mentorship.
Community leaders heard what the young people hope changes.
"So many times we say we are listening to the children, but today they are center stage," Mayor Pro Tem Dianne Williams-Cox said. "We are listening very intently, and we want them to know that we are listening and we want to take what they give us and show them some results."
Tallahassee Chief of Police Lawrence Revell said having officers connect with the youth is a major goal of his.
"We as law enforcement have to be in the schools, and not just policing," Revell said. "But I have said this many times before, building relationships and working with our youth, to establish those long-lasting relationships that are going to have tremendous effects on our community."
Some students said they were proud of the community leaders who showed up, but they want to see them take action on the causes the forum highlighted.
"It is those that chose not to show up that I think need a little more coaxing, but we need to make sure that our country is decided by us," Allen said. "Because we are the citizens that are going to be affected by the laws, by our everyday sheriffs and community leaders,"
Although the leaders could not participate in dialogue with students, they want them to know their presence wasn't just a one time thing.
"We care," Revell said. "And we are here, and we support them. We want to be those role models. We wan to to be those mentors that they are looking for."
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