SWATARA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania’s attorney general is traveling the Commonwealth, holding conversations with students about gun violence and its impact on mental health.
On Friday, Attorney General Michelle Henry visited Steelton-Highspire High School this morning, for a discussion that lasted about an hour.
“I’m here today to really listen to the students and learn from them,” she said. “They are our future leaders of the community, they need to have a voice at the table.”
abc27 was not allowed to listen in to this discussion because she wanted students to feel like they could be open and honest, but several students shared their thoughts afterward.
Sophomore Jaonna Johnson said, “It’s such a big conversation yet nobody is able to talk about it because of how much it happens.”
“I feel like many students don’t know how to handle it,” sophomore Olivia Clouser said.
It was a difficult conversation for some. Junior Samerus Rivers lost his uncle to gun violence a decade ago.
“It kind of hurts, hits home for family members every time the day comes around and when it happened because it happened around this time,” Rivers said.
Still, he and his friends said participating was valuable.
“It’s like a chance for the opportunity to speak the truth to the youth,” Rivers said.
Fellow junior Javius Dent said, “We get to talk to and understand where our friends and our classmates are along with it and how they feel about it.”
The conversation was a chance to connect with their peers, and for some students, to share personal experiences.
“I didn’t know that they had that sort of experience. You know, I thought I was the only one,” junior Malachi Bennett said. “I hear it all the time. Like, you know, maybe shots getting shot in the distance…”I lose nights of sleep over that.”
Students also said it worries them that violence is often perpetrated by young people.
“It’s very, very sad because some of them get hurt or end up hurting someone else,” Bennett said.
This conversation with the attorney general is a step forward.
“Having places talk about it and try to find different ways to combat it now is something that could help generations and years to come,” senior Bryce Madden said.
Many students left feeling hopeful about the future.
“The [attorney] general knows, so therefore it is one step closer to where we need to be today,” Johnson said.
Clouser added, “We got to get it off our chest, it’s something that needed to be said and people need to talk about.”
The attorney general’s office will be putting together a report on these conversations with recommendations on how schools and elected officials can support young people and their communities.