Several Allegheny County school districts team up to end gun violence among their students

Crime scene tape, evidence markers and police officers are a regular occurrence in certain communities.

“Every time you see an incident of violence impacting youth, it’s a blend. It’s Woodland Hills students, it’s McKeesport students, it’s Gateway students,” said Dr. Daniel Castagna, the Woodland Hills superintendent.

That’s why several school districts in the Mon Valley and East Hills have come together to focus on gun violence.

“Get our kids linked together. I think that’s the most important piece — to bring our kids together as one — that’s what we will look to do moving forward from today,” said Dr. John Mozzocio, the Penn Hills Superintendent.

These school leaders spent the afternoon sharing ideas with Woodland Hills, breaking down exactly what is working for them with a program that creates peace ambassadors in the schools.

“It is a 100% student perspective how student’s role is in gun violence. What can they do in their schools every day, as well as be a football player, be in AP classes,” said Cathy Welsh, who lost her son to gun violence.

Add in some fun with an anti-violence hip-hop team and they are hoping to spread these programs out.

“Their dream now is to head to Penn Hills, grab some Penn Hills peace ambassadors, head to Clairton, then McKeesport, Wilkinsburg and Duquesne and hopefully in a year or two we will have peach ambassadors across the Mon Valley,” Welsh said.

While these leaders believe the students are the key to peace, they know they have to come together to make the connections and take action.

“It’s definitely working, it’s going to take a few years. We didn’t see the spread of gun violence from the city to the Mon Valley in one day,” Welsh said.

Another element of this partnership is sending students from each district to Harrisburg to talk to lawmakers about violence prevention. That trip is coming up on May 7.

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