Sandy Hook sur­vivors plan D.C. gun-vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion sum­mit

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - NEWS - By Rob Ryser rryser@new­stimes.com 203-731-3342

NEW­TOWN — The help­less­ness Abbey Cle­ments and Jor­dan Gomes felt as the sound of gun­fire shat­tered the safety of Sandy Hook School adds to the trauma of the 2012 tragedy.

But the em­pow­er­ment they said they feel by rais­ing their voices for change gives them hope the deaths of 20 class­mates and six ed­u­ca­tors was not in vain.

Gomes, a New­town High School stu­dent who was in fourth grade on the day of the shoot­ings, and Cle­ments, who was teach­ing sec­ond grade at Sandy Hook that day, are or­ga­niz­ing a mid-Oc­to­ber, gun­vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., with the goal of pro­duc­ing a stu­dent bill of rights.

Gomes and 21 other teens na­tion­wide are the ma­jor play­ers plan­ning the Stu­dent Gun Vi­o­lence Sum­mit, Oct. 19-21. Cle­ments and three other ed­u­ca­tors are sup­port­ing the stu­dent-led ef­fort as ad­vis­ers.

“A lot of the time I feel like we hear these in­spi­ra­tional peo­ple speak and what they say is mag­nif­i­cent and true, but when they’re done I feel like, ‘What do we do now?’ ” said Gomes, 15, a mem­ber of the Ju­nior New­town Ac­tion Al­liance. “So we are go­ing to cre­ate a stu­dent bill of rights that can be used not just by us but by peo­ple across the coun­try to re­duce gun vi­o­lence in their towns.”

The sum­mit is the in­spi­ra­tion of teenagers from Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Fla., where a gun­man killed 17 stu­dents and staff on Valen­tine’s Day. Stu­dents from the same high school launched March for Our Lives — the gun-vi­o­lence aware­ness cam­paign and voter reg­is­tra­tion move­ment — that has gal­va­nized youth across the coun­try, lead­ing to the Novem­ber midterm elec­tions.

At the same time, stu­dent ac­tivists in New­town have raised their pro­files by par­tic­i­pat­ing with Park­land stu­dents at a march on Wash­ing­ton in the spring, and at a mid-Au­gust rally in New­town to mark the end of a high-pro­file sum­mer road tour.

Cle­ments said the gun­vi­o­lence sum­mit is the lat­est re­sult of that col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“We have all been im­pressed by the Park­land stu­dents and how they have ig­nited the pas­sion of stu­dents around the coun­try and have en­cour­aged the ac­tivism of our stu­dents in New­town,” said Cle­ments, who teaches fourth grade at Sandy Hook School. “I can­not wait to watch these stu­dents come up with a bill of rights de­mand­ing safety in our schools.”

Cle­ments said she is es­pe­cially proud of Gomes, whom she taught in sec­ond grade.

“I am so ex­cited that she is go­ing and that she is so pas­sion­ate and that she is do­ing some­thing about this,” Cle­ments said.

In ad­di­tion to the stu­dent ad­vi­sory panel, the sum­mit will in­clude 100 stu­dents who will hear speeches and be in­volved in work­shop, with the goal of pro­duc­ing an ac­tion plan.

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