Wilson Magnet student gives take on violence in city

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Lessons from young people about violence in the city: The Rochester City School District asked students to write about the violence they’ve seen, and what they would do to fix it, as part of an essay contest.

Sadly, young people aren’t immune from violence. This year alone, 19 people ages 18 and under have been shot in Rochester — two fatally.

Wilson Magnet senior Shawn Adams knows about it firsthand.

In 2015, three teens were gunned down after a basketball game at the Boys & Girls club across the street from Wilson.

The mother of one of the slain created an essay contest, hoping to empower young people.

Indeed, Shawn Adams, who won third place in this year’s competition, says he now feels like his words matter.

“Basically, my experience was like some close friends I knew died doing gun violence. Or some other close friends that I knew lost somebody due to gun violence. On my street you hear a lot of gunshots and stuff like that and you couldn’t sleep so I wrote more about that,” Shawn said.

Shawn wrote about what he has seen — and felt — in his 18 years.

But he didn’t stop there — he talked about what kids can do to stay away from violence.

“I wrote about stuff like having rec centers and keeping the young mind occupied. That way we can keep them out of the streets instead of doing stuff like that. Even if they’re in a troubled house they can go there and do whatever they want. Whether it’s games, basketball, painting. Anything that can keep the young mind occupied,” Shawn said.

Shawn’s essay was picked as one of the winners by a group of community members and city officials.

Kaleeha Norton and Justin Sessions-McMillians took first and second place, respectively.

Wilson’s principal, Gary Reynolds, says this was much more than a writing assignment.

“I think that needs to be the guiding light and voice to get some real change here within the community. It has a direct effect and impact on kids,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds says the words of these young writers are raw, authentic and powerful.

“I think just the realness and the connection. It’s hard to deny the effect and the impact. And when you have lived it and experienced it firsthand, your word has much more weight than just folks who might just pick it up and read it in the D&C or on the news via social media or something,” Reynolds said.

The three essay winners got to meet Mayor Malik Evans as well as receive a certificate from the county executive in honor of their recognition.