I want to become an advocate for the voiceless. Growing up, I stood up for others and have always addressed the elephant in the room. I take social justice issues to heart, and I want to create change. This is what led me to become involved in my school’s social justice club.

Being involved with the social justice club led to me being involved with this year’s Changing Systems Youth Summit on Gun Violence. I had been around the Social System Design Lab before, and last year I missed out on the opportunity to be a part of the Changing Systems Summit on Community Racism. So this year I knew I had to become a part of the summit.

Although I didn’t have any direct experience with gun violence, I felt as if I had to become a part of the summit in some way. Maybe as an intern, I would still be able to make an impact on the issue. I had experience with system dynamics and I hoped that I could teach others the powerful tools that I use in everyday life. So I applied to become an intern and I was accepted in May 2016.

As an intern, I was able to help normally quiet and closed off individuals to speak out during the summit. I was able to hear them tell their stories, and help them gain insight by guiding them through exercises. I was still able to help, and that’s all I wanted to do.

During the summit, I was able to see the personal effect that gun violence had on the lives of youths like myself, and it was quite surprising to say the least. To find out that gun violence is something that occurs as a part of everyday life for teenagers was shocking. There shouldn’t be neighborhoods that people are afraid to go into because they’re afraid of getting shot. Youth shouldn’t have to worry about what will happen after class or wonder, “Who do I have to go see in the hospital today?” during school.

Gun violence is an issue that affects everyone, and something needs to change about it. We need to change it. By being an intern and a facilitator at the youth summit, I was able to see the effects of gun violence on not just adults, but youth such as myself, and it has to stop.