The topic of gun violence, though complex and emotional, was chosen with the intent of fostering a transformative learning environment for the participants of the Changing Systems Summit. Youth whose lives have been impacted by gun violence and its effects came together with community stakeholders for an eye-opening event.

Over the last five years in St. Louis, 15,000 victims were murdered, shot, or robbed at gunpoint.

Between 2008 and 2013, 398 children aged 16 and under were taken to one of two hospital emergency rooms in St. Louis for gun related injuries.

Over 90% of St. Louis residents who were killed by guns were African-American or Black, and two-thirds were under the age of 30.

This summit was designed for the following purposes in relation to the public health crisis of gun violence in St. Louis:

To develop systems thinking capabilities and group model building facilitation skills in youth.

To understand the youth perspective on issues of community importance.

To create opportunities and supports for youth to develop their capabilities as leaders, problem solvers, and responsible decision makers.

Approximately 26 students from 19 St. Louis city and county schools participated in the four-day summit, which was facilitated by an additional 15 SSDL youth interns. The teens were divided into three groups. SSDL youth interns led group model building activities with scripts to develop causal maps (causal loop diagrams) of gun violence in their communities.

Problems such as fear, retaliation, bullying, and lack of resources were identified as being sources of difficulty in their communities.