Miami Middle School Students Hope Their Magazine Will Help End Gun Violence Middle schoolers in Miami are writing poetry and persuasive essays about school safety policies for a student magazine they hope will convince Congress to pass laws to prevent mass shootings.

Miami Middle School Students Hope Their Magazine Will Help End Gun Violence

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Some middle schoolers in Florida are hoping they can inspire Congress to act on gun control and school safety. About 40 students at a school in Miami are publishing a magazine about the effects of gun violence. They plan to distribute copies to every member of Congress and ask them to pass laws aimed at preventing mass shootings like the one at a Parkland high school two years ago. Jessica Bakeman from member station WLRN spent an afternoon with the club.

JESSICA BAKEMAN, BYLINE: The morning after the Parkland shooting, a middle school teacher in nearby Miami stood in front of his speech and debate class and had no idea what to say. Kelsey Major teaches at Everglades K-8 Center. It's a public school about an hour away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people had been killed the day before; 14 of them were students.

KELSEY MAJOR: It's a powerful thing when 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds are looking up to you for an answer to something that you don't have an answer for. In speech and debate, I was speechless.

BAKEMAN: After that day two years ago, the class decided to create a magazine about mass shootings. It's called First Shot. This school year, they formed a club to continue the project. They're raising money to print a copy of their second edition for all 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate. And they're planning a bus trip to deliver the magazine to the local offices of south Florida Congress members.

MAJOR: The mass shootings that we're focusing on this year are there.

BAKEMAN: Mr. Major points to a list on the whiteboard.

MAJOR: Columbine, Parkland.

BAKEMAN: Also Sandy Hook, the shooting at a black church in Charleston, Virginia Tech, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

MAJOR: And so our focus is mass shootings in safe and sacred places.

BAKEMAN: Safe and sacred places, mainly schools and houses of worship. The sixth, seventh and eighth-graders are doing data analysis on gun violence statistics, applying scientific theories to research on mass shooters. They're drawing victims of gun violence and then using an app to digitize and color their portraits. They're working their way through 130 victims. Mia Magarinos (ph) is the head artist.

MIA MAGARINOS: We've only gotten up to Emily Garza, which is a little child.

BAKEMAN: A 7-year-old killed in 2017 at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Mia hopes the magazine makes members of Congress feel sad and like they should help.

MIA: Because this is not an everyday thing, but it's slowly becoming one. And it's not - that's not what it's supposed to be.

BAKEMAN: Miller Hernandez (ph) spends his time calling congressional leaders around the country, following up to see if they received last year's magazine.

MILLER HERNANDEZ: Hello, my name is Miller Hernandez. I am from a school in South Miami, Fla.

BAKEMAN: Here, he's calling Louisiana Republican Representative Steve Scalise's office.

HERNANDEZ: So we sent a couple of magazines by the name of First Shot.

BAKEMAN: The staff member who answered the phone took a message, and he asked Miller, what university did you say you were calling from?

HERNANDEZ: A middle school, actually, in South Miami, Fla.

BAKEMAN: When the students take their bus trip to local congressional offices next month, eighth-grader Susana Martinez (ph) will perform at some of the stops.

MAJOR: Susana, are you ready?


BAKEMAN: This is the club's anthem.

SUSANA: I went to school to learn the golden rule, to try to be cool, but not to sit in a pool of blood.

BAKEMAN: Their teacher, Kelsey Major, wrote this poem from a student's perspective based on a frightening experience he and Susana shared at school. She was showing a new student around and didn't hear the announcement - code red, active shooter.

SUSANA: I saw all the teachers, like, coming out of their classrooms and, like, locking the doors. And then that's when I noticed - I told, like, the kid immediately - I'm like, code red, come on.

BAKEMAN: It was just a drill, but she didn't know that.

SUSANA: And I was, like, scared, like, to death because, like, you know, in Parkland, a bunch of the kids, like, weren't able to get to their classrooms.

BAKEMAN: But then Mr. Major opened the door to his classroom and let her in.

SUSANA: Don't want to be first shot.

BAKEMAN: Sometimes the class performs this poem together as a group.

SUSANA: Children walk out the door, hands raised as in praise. Men still talk in suits and ties while they watch the future die.

BAKEMAN: Susana says the club's goal is to get Congress to listen to young people.

SUSANA: We are the future. That's what, like, all the, like, legislators say, that we are the future.

BAKEMAN: But she wonders, what about the now? For NPR News, I'm Jessica Bakeman in Miami.

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