Miami Herald: Summit addresses violence in Florida schools

Dec 10, 2009

The Miami Herald published this article on December 10, 2009

Special to The Miami Herald

As each individual filed past the coffin, they stared back at their own face reflected by a mirror placed inside. State Sen. Frederica Wilson, founder of the mentoring program, directed them to contemplate the future.

“We want them to pause and look in the casket,” instructed Wilson, “because when you look in the casket, you’ll see yourselves.”

The funeral was a part of the program for the 5000 Role Models Non-Violence Summit: Pause for the Cause, held in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Auditorium in downtown Miami, on Dec. 3. Inspiration for the summit came after recent violent incidents in several local schools including recent stabbings at Miami Norland and Coral Gables Senior High School. When children forget that they’re not supposed to bring a knife to school then you have to discuss it, said Wilson.

The summit included speakers who lectured about topics ranging from the importance of appearance and first impressions, to the false impressions caused by gangsta rap, to the consequences of poor decision making.

Anti-violence activist Queen Brown of Miami Gardens told the students that the answer lies with them. “You’re the only one who can stop the violence.”

Brown’s son Eviton, a former Role Model student, was shot to death three years ago. She told the students they have to control their emotions and learn to resolve conflicts with healthy debate.

The speeches and funeral made an impression on some students.

“To see yourself in the casket was a scary feeling, especially at a young age,” said Norland student Elmon Walters, 17. The school was the scene of a recent stabbing involving two students.

Walters said the school is one of the few places he does feel safe. However, Elmon, of Miami Gardens, said when he is not in school there are few safe places besides his home and church.

Other students echoed how they often felt safe in their school, while fearing their neighborhoods. Nevertheless, Kensley Lorvinsky, vice president of the Mast Academy’s Role Model chapter, has found a way to largely avoid confrontations: ignore the taunts.

“Be the bigger person,” he said.