Lowell students spoke up, and the Police Chief listened

Lowell students spoke up, and the Police Chief listened

By Amy Joy Stahl

Sophomores at Lowell High School have a goal: Create a gun buyback program in their city to make homes and kids safer. They’ve just convinced William Taylor, Chief of Police for the City of Lowell, to work with them.

The 10th-graders in this U.S. History class have spent the semester practicing the basics of civics, like voting and building consensus, through Generation Citizen’s action civics curriculum, which supplements the class’s standard learning about U.S. history and how our government is structured. Over the past few weeks, the students decided that of all the issues facing their state and local communities, they wanted to spend the rest of the semester working on a systemic solution to gun violence, particularly accidental shootings and teen suicides.

To research the issue, students explored relevant, informative sources including a report from the Committee to Reduce Gun Violence, as well as The Trace, an online resource with an interactive map pinpointing incidents of gun violence across the country. The students read about programs such as Good for Guns, which collected over 250 guns in Worcester, MA in a single day, exchanging gift certificates to local businesses for turned-in weapons. After considering all the information they’d collected, these Lowell sophomores concluded that too many young people wind up injured or killed because guns are too easily found and misused in homes. They crafted their action civics goal of instituting a local gun buyback program to reduce the risk of gun violence to young people like themselves.

To execute their plan, the students reached out to Taylor’s office to request a meeting. Taylor then set an excellent example for public officials by making time to engage meaningfully with his young constituents. After hearing the students’ concerns, Lowell’s Chief of Police is now on board with their plan to create a gun buyback program.

The class’s teacher, Jessica Lander, teaches U.S. History and World History to English Language Learners at Lowell High School. Having taught GC’s curriculum in several classes now, Lander says, “GC is so rewarding because my students get to enact real change on issues that they care about. Last year I had a student who had never done anything to get civically engaged before — over the course of the program she turned into a political powerhouse, and took a leading role in the project. I love seeing those moments of empowerment, seeing my students meet with experts and officials who are really listening to them.”

All three of Lander’s current Generation Citizen classes will present the processes and results of their action civics projects at an end-of-semester event on May 12, at the Massachusetts State House.

Generation Citizen is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 tax exempt organization which does not endorse candidates; our goal is to engage our staff, participants, and stakeholders in political and civic action on issues that matter to them personally and in their communities. The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the writer alone and do not reflect the opinions of Generation Citizen.