By Rudabeh Shahbazi

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida students turned the tables on teachers at The Perez Art Museum at its “Teens as Teachers” workshop.

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The annual event features teens and educators working side-by-side examining the school tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and mass shootings that are plaguing the nation.

“We’re the ones who are feeling this because we attend school,” said Miami Springs Senior High student Claudia Caroujo.

Caroujo is a mentee turned mentor on this day, teaching the teachers, and even the City of Miami Police Chief about the pulse of their generation.

They are here to address their fears, hopes, questions and solutions when it comes to school shootings, from a perspective only they can really understand.

“There is a certain paranoia, there is a certain amount discomfort that is a part of our school days, and that needs to be dealt with, and more than anything, teachers are amazing people,” explained Caroujo. “They are so great; they have put in so much dedication to giving so much of themselves to their students that they need to be heard.  They need to be heard at a political level and at a social level, because they’re creating the next generation.”

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The adults, who have taught and shaped the young people who have emerged as bold and determined activists, are now here to be mentored themselves.

Even as adults, we need mentors, we need people we can talk to and look up to, so much more for a teen, or youth,” said Marrie Vickles, Knight Associate Director of Education For Schools and Gallery Programs. “They’re growing and learning, they’re formulating ideas of the world and themselves, so to have adults you can rely on, talk to, that take you seriously as a teen, it’s an amazing and important aspect of any teenager’s life.”

The traditional relationship between mentor and mentee is flipped around at this workshop.

“Whatever we think teachers need to learn, whatever we think is misrepresented, or unheard, we use this day to deliver that to teachers,” explained DASH Senior High student Natasja Enriquez.

While not everyone here has been a direct victim of gun violence, they are all scarred by it.

There are reminders everywhere and the movement has become something bigger.

“I think it’s going to be the experience of being able to have a discussion and seeing what that can give us. Can it give us comfort, can it make us feel like something is being solved, can it give us hope for the future, all those sorts of things can come from a discussion, but first we need that discussion,” said Caroujo.

PAMM is giving them the platform to do just that.

“Art of any genre is a perfect tool for simulating dialogue, creating conversation around something that is neutral.  It’s something that we look at, we perceive, or we all enjoy, or are inspired by in a different way,” said Vickles. “Just having the opportunity to talk about something outside of ourselves, art brings us together, or at least gets us talking about issues.”

Claudia Caroujo and Natasja Enriquez are PAMM Teen Ambassadors.

They are tasked with drawing other teenagers into the art space and talking about issues through programs like this workshop.

“I think most teenagers feel like their voice doesn’t matter.  So it’s cool that we get to spread a message, and to things that are important to us,” said Natasja.

Along with dialogue, the students created “action patches”, which are unique and meaningful squares of art representing how they are moving forward, to come together in a “quilt of unity.”

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“We’ve been put in a really unique place.  My generation is a really strong one and I think people are starting to realize that.  I think that as kids were showing that we definitely have a voice and we’re ready to share it.  I would tell kids my age that we are our own support group, and we are going to work hard to make the changes that we want to see in the world that we’re going to be leading, so this is all about change, and this is about sticking together, and that’s what we need,” said Caroujo.

A voter registration table was also set up where students as young as 16 were able to register to vote, even though they won’t be able to cast a ballot until 2020. A number of students took advantage of the opportunity and filled out the required forms.

If you are a mentor and would like to share your story with us, please email us at

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