DC youth express concerns, offer solutions to city leaders

From more support for students suffering from mental illness, to making the streets safer, some D.C. youth groups joined forces Wednesday night in Northwest to express their concerns and offer solutions for city leaders

“I’m tired of losing people I love the most,” said Andre Wilson, a student at Kramer Middle School in Southeast.

He was one of several students who took on the topic of gun violence as the city copes with multiple shootings so far in the new year where teenagers are the accused shooter or the victims of gunplay.

Kristi Matthews-Jones, director of the DC Girls’ Coalition — one of six youth organizations taking part in the youth summit — said on these topics, students have knowledge and experiences that adults, especially those who make or enforce laws, can learn from.

Young D.C. residents discuss multiple topics at a youth summit in Northwest Wednesday night. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

“We’re giving them the opportunity to connect directly with city leaders and tell them exactly what they want from their perspective and solutions they have for issues that we see often on the news,” Matthews-Jones said.

For Wilson, gun violence hits home. The middle schooler lost his father to gun violence when he was 3 years old, and in 2020, his friend, 11-year-old Davon McNeal, was killed by a stray bullet.

Wilson called on city leaders to open more recreation centers so kids have places to go to after school.

“Because instead of hanging outside, people who die from gun violence, we could be inside of a recreation center, playing football or basketball doing sports,” Wilson said.

Tonajea Mixon, 16, a student at E.L. Haynes High Public Charter School in Northwest, said she sees room for improvement in mental illness treatment. She said resources need to be improved in the city, especially in schools. Mixon said that offering more counseling and help for students would also help curb violence outside of class.

“I do believe that some kids do act out of character and out of their age for the attention of their parents or attention from adults anyways; I feel like if we helped more on working on teams and their mental health and their emotional support, then they would be way better,” Mixon said.

Anacostia High School student Marcus William, 15, said the District’s school system must do more and ensure schools are better stocked with sanitary items such as toilet paper. He also called for more help to prevent the bullying of LGBTQ students.

“I mainly seem like my friends get attacked, or like, just get verbally assaulted by many people,” Williams said.

The high schooler proposed providing safe places for members of the LGBTQ community to meet at the city’s schools.

Speaking to the students, Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau said they are focusing on the right issues.

“Of course, only you know what is important to you, but from my perspective, as a government leader, there are really important issues, so thank you for giving voice to them,” Nadeau said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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