Chicago event seeks violence solutions from students

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FOX 32 NEWS - Students from Chicago’s East-West University heard some first person accounts Tuesday of the violence that has been plaguing Chicago.

“I actually am a victim of gun violence, I been shot in the head before,” said student Michael Brown.

Brown was a robbery victim and he knows about violence first hand. Omero Siller does, too.

“My father got shot nine times in front of the house,” said student Omero Siller.

And so does Kisha Johnson.

“My cousin Matthew Herring was outside his apartment when he was shot a couple of times and died,” said student Kisha Johnson.

All three are students at East-West University in the South Loop. On Tuesday, they participated in a "Take Back, Give Back" event. It was designed to help students with or without such first-hand experiences discover more about violence in Chicago. They heard from Congressman Danny Davis, who lost a grandson to a shooting last fall, and Cleo Pendleton, whose daughter Hadiya was shot and killed on the South Side four years ago.

“I think they get the message. Because it's not that I am preaching to them, we're having a conversation about something they can relate to, unfortunately,” Pendleton said.

Pendleton stressed the importance of living every day to the fullest, because violence can strike so suddenly. Congressman Davis talked solutions, like fighting poverty. He was impressed by the turnout.

“I don't know that I expected over two hundred students who would come and spend a couple of hours just talking about and listening to thoughts and ideas,” Davis said.

Students left with some fresh ideas, but were also aware of the challenges.

“I feel a lot of the violence wouldn't be if people had something better or more productive to do,” said student Michael Brown.

“When you see things like this occurring every day, you kind of grow numb to it, it becomes an everyday occurrence and at this point, it’s just, oh, well it happened again,” said student Kisha Johnson.

East-West says almost 80 percent of its students are from low income families, and more than half are the first in their families to attend college. The university says it will have more events focusing on violence in the future.

The students also heard from a social worker at Stroger Hospital's trauma center who said there's been a 40 percent increase in patients seen over the last year.