While some were getting ready for prom and others were just enjoying a beautiful Saturday, a handful of Kelloggsville students were silently protesting about the violence in their community.
“I don’t like living with the violence,” said Analise Cabrera, a Kentwood resident who is an 11th grader at Kelloggsville High School. Cabrera, like all the students holding signs on the corner of 44th Street and Division in front of the RiteAid, has personally been touched by violence. Her friend, Michael White, a former Kelloggsville student, was killed in March by two out-of-district students.
“There are a lot of people sitting back and just watching what happens,” Cabrera said. “We need people to step up and do something.
“We are doing what we can do and we want to just make an impact on others. You have to start somewhere.”
Interns for the after-school program D.O.C.K., Discipling of Christ’s Kids, the four students participated in the leadership program GR Initiative for Leaders (GRIL U). A faith-based training for teens, the nine-month program is designed to help students find their passions and then show them the tools they have available to share that passion, said Noele Stith, who is part of GRIL U.
“It is designed to show them they have a voice and how they can use that voice in a positive way to encourage change in their community whether that community is home, school, a place of worship, or a neighborhood,” Stith said.
In the GRIL U program, students set aside two hours of service for their church or organization, in this case specifically for D.O.C.K. The students meet with a mentor once a month and with that mentor, work on learning about the causes that interest them. The topic of violence came to the forefront after Kelloggsvile student Isaiah Blue was shot in January and then the murder of White a couple of months later.
“For me, it was important for people to understand what violence is,” said Melody Szatkowski, a Wyoming resident and 11th grader at Kelloggsville High School who stood on the corner holding a sign with the definition of violence. “It is behavior involving physical intent to hurt, damage or kill.
“I hope this creates a better understanding of what violence is because it is not just killing, but hurting and damaging someone or something as well.”
The students stood out on the corner from about 10 a.m. to noon holding signs and saying little. Cars drove by, beeping their horns in support and a few students stopped to chat with the protestors.
The event was one of three that took place within a week all organized by students who participated in the GRIL U program. There was one on human trafficking at RiverTown Mall on April 20 and another on voter registration on April 27.