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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Julian students' call to action

Last week we saw the funeral for Percy L. Julian High School junior Blair Holt. This week Julian students are making strides to end the violence. From the Chicago Tribune...

Two weeks after their classmate was shot to death on a CTA bus, a group of 25 Julian High students gathered on Friday with CeaseFire, a group that tries to defuse gang violence.

CeaseFire members invited Julian High student leaders to discuss with them what they think the organization can do to stop the violence that killed Blair Holt and 27 other Chicago Public Schools students this year.

Many questioned why it took Holt's death to prompt CeaseFire and prominent clergy to pay attention to the problems they encounter daily.

"We can talk all day until we're blue," a Julian student said, "and it's still just talking."

Tio Hardiman, director of mediation for CeaseFire, said he understands their frustration. But he assured them that CeaseFire members are determined to be a presence in the neighborhoods around Julian. Students can call the CeaseFire hot line and anonymously report on gun and gang activity in their neighborhood without fear of being discovered, Hardiman said.

"You don't have to stop the violence," Hardiman said. "You just have to spread the word that we're here."

One student questioned how he could ask a friend to stop selling drugs when the friend uses his money to pay the rent and buy food for his family. Others said that Julian students need safe, fun activities that would give them another option to hanging on the street.

The CeaseFire members said they understand the reasons for the violence are complex. They promised the students they would return over the next six months and brainstorm long-term solutions.

"You can pour all the money you want into the CPS but if the problem is outside of the school in the community, then it will continue to spill over into the school," Hardiman said.

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