MIAMI (CBS4) – Hundreds gathered at Miami Jackson Senior High School to talk about ways to stop gun violence.
The National Action Network hosted the forum Monday night.
In an auditorium packed with people, 15 year old Aaron Willis sat in his wheelchair. The 9th grader at Booker T. Washington Senior High was shot in the back in December while riding his bike.
Aaron says he’s adjusting to life without the use of his legs.
“I got more used to being in a wheelchair,” he said.
But his father Sammie Willis says this isn’t something any teen should have to get used to.
“It’s absolutely necessary for someone to do something, to step up and stop this violence. There [are] kids out here killing each other with guns. It’s just time for the violence to stop,” he said.
Sammie Willis participated in a panel discussion about stopping gun violence in the community.
“You’ve got to cure the cancer and it’s going to take some time but it has to start somewhere,” he said.
Organizers of the forum say just discussing the problem is a step in the right direction. They were pleased to see a large crowd at Miami Jackson.
The school lost a student to gun violence just last December. Straight-A student, Bryan Herrera, was shot and killed while riding his bike to a friend’s house to do homework.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says 99 children in Miami-Dade became homicide victims between 2009-2012, including 81 shooting victims.
“Since I became superintendent, I’ve attended over 50 funerals, viewings, burials of my children. This has to stop. It’s in our control to make it stop,” said Carvalho.
Carvalho says schools need to partner with community groups to keep occupied before and after school and on weekends.
“Kids are safe in schools,” said Carvalho, “It’s what happens on the streets it’s what happens in the parks.”
Other shooting victims who survived to tell their stories hope others will learn from them. Brandon Allen was 17 when he was shot in the neck in February of 2012 on his way home from school.
“Just walking, a normal day taking my regular route home, a car pulled up on the side of me and my friends and opened fire, and before I knew it I was on the ground blood everywhere,” he said.
Aaron Willis, who will have to be homeschooled until next year said his message is this: “There’s better ways to do it, there ain’t a reason to go around shooting.”
Organizers say it will take the entire community working together to stop violence among young people. They said the large turnout for Monday’s forum is a step in the right direction.