By Gregory Hampton, student leader with Youth ALIVE!
Greg is a senior at Castlemont High school and has been a participant in TNT (Teens on Target) for almost 4 years. Born and raised in Oakland, he has experienced losing friends and loved ones to gun violence. He is a youth advocate, mentor, violence prevention educator, and experienced public speaker, using his voice and experiences to continue to shift the mindsets of the younger generation and others who’ve been affected by gun violence.
I’m a student leader with the organization Youth ALIVE! based in Oakland. Our mission is to prevent violence and develop youth leaders while providing resources to the community and families that have been impacted by violence.
It’s important to talk about gun violence during Black History Month because many of the heroes who we honor during this period have experienced violence or gun violence while they were fighting for justice. It just comes to show that gun violence has been a crisis in our country for too long.
I lost friends to gun violence when I was younger, and it helped me realize that this can be a never-ending cycle if we don’t do something to stop it. I didn’t want to lose any more people close to me so I took the opportunity to be part of a program that fights against gun violence in my community.
Young people play a critical role in fighting back against gun violence. We have the chance to use our voices to speak up on the way it impacts us. We have to take opportunities to speak on behalf of our community and younger generations so they are set up to have a better future — a future free from violence.
Through Youth ALIVE!’s program violence prevention program Teens on Target (TNT), I learned how to talk about my own experiences and share them with younger students so we can work together to be the change that we want to see in our communities.
These workshops have the power to help students understand and vocalize their own experiences with violence. Once, when I shared my story while presenting a workshop at a middle school, a student shared a personal story that brought her to tears after the session on family abuse. She expressed that she was thankful that TNT came to present, because she had been holding in her pain for a long time and no one to talk to. To this day, we keep in touch and I check in on her once in a while and she does the same with me.
There are not enough violence intervention and prevention programs in our schools. TNT is only in two high schools and needs to be in more. Even though every high school is in a different community, too many young people still face the same gun violence issues.
I hope more schools and communities across the country learn about TNT and create similar programs at their school. As I look to the future, I know I want to stay involved with TNT or another organization that has the same mission to stop violence.
We are powerful voices in this movement. To any students doing this work, I would say keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t stop until you see change. Be patient with the process and don’t let anything stop you from pushing forward until you see change. And don’t forget to teach others how they can be involved, too. We have to make sure we’re taking everyone with us when we do this work.
You can follow Youth ALIVE! Teens on Target program at @tntoakland.