New Fellows Will Help Fuel the Fight to Save Lives from Gun Violence
July 18, 2018 — The mass shooting in Parkland sparked a renewed push for gun safety laws led by young Americans across the country. To help empower the continued efforts of young advocates to make a change in their community, today Giffords announced the names of the individuals selected for the inaugural Courage Fellowship. The 28 student leaders announced today will travel to Washington DC next week, for a three-day team building and organizing workshop meeting. The program, launched this year, gives students the resources and opportunities to continue their efforts to improve gun safety laws where they live. Ranging from ages 16 to 20, Courage Fellows will work together and learn effective ways to advocate for policies that reduce gun violence.
“Keeping our communities safe from gun violence is the clarion call of the next generation of Americans,” said former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords. “In communities across the country, courageous young people have been standing up, sharing their stories, and demanding a safer future for their families and friends. Their energy has fueled our efforts to fight to prevent future tragedies and save lives from gun violence. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to team up with these inspiring young leaders from across the country, many of whom have personally experienced the pain of gun violence, and find new ways to amplify our collective call to action.”
Giffords Courage Fellows 2018 Class:
- Ethan Asher, 16, Roswell, GA — Ethan is a founder and board member of the Georgia Students Alliance for Social Justice, a group whose main focus is gun violence prevention in Georgia. Ethan served as a lead organizer for the March for Our Lives- Atlanta. He is also the president of Temple Youth Group while holding leadership positions with the Jewish Student Union, Student Council, and Model UN.
- Ashley Baez, High School Junior, Parkland, FL — Ashley was a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when she was shot in the leg on February 14. Five weeks later, she attended the March For Our Lives so politicians could realize how much gun violence has affected her and her classmates.
- Sophie Bly, High School Junior, Parkland, FL — Sophie is a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and one of Ashley Baez’s closest friends. After the Parkland shooting, she and Ashley decided to become Courage Fellows together in an effort to bring more awareness to the toll gun violence takes nationwide.
- Tre Bosley, College Sophomore, Chicago, IL — When Trevon “Tre” Bosley was 7, his brother was shot and killed in front of a church in Chicago, prompting Tre to become an outspoken advocate against urban gun violence. Tre spoke at a CNN town hall with President Obama about poverty and gun violence. Tre spoke at the March for Our Lives in DC this March, where he told the crowd, “I’m here to speak for those youth who fear they may be shot while going to the gas station, the movies, the bus stop, to church, or even to and from school.”
- Katie Eder, Senior in High School, Shorewood, WI — Katie is the executive director for 50 Miles More. Modeled after the Selma to Montgomery marches, 50 Miles More is a student-based group that strives to keep the national conversation focused on the demand for gun reform.
- Patrick Evans, High School Sophomore, Birmingham, AL — Patrick has noticed the prevalence of violence in his own community and believes that the ready availability of guns has only made this problem steadily worse. He has leadership or board positions with Anytown Alabama and the Legacy Youth Leadership Program, a part of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
- Sarah Fritz, College Freshman, Columbus, OH — Sarah has been civically engaged since she was 15, having worked with different political races, nonprofits, and women’s organizations. In 2016, she won the Ohio Civil Rights Commission Award for a research project analyzing racial violence in film. Sarah will be a freshman at Butler University in the fall, where she will major in peace and conflict studies with a focus on social injustices.
- Brianna Heiges, High School Junior, Davie, FL — Brianna’s best friend was a survivor of the Parkland shooting. Since that time, she’s met with local officials and legislators about what can be done to prevent gun violence in schools. She helped organize and spoke at the Rally in Tally at the Florida state capitol, an event to demand gun reform.
- Rie’Onna Holmon, High School Sophomore, Chicago IL — Rie’Onna is a student activist and ambassador from Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere, a Chicago-based group focused on violence prevention. Through acts of civil disobedience, Rie’Onna has collaborated with other students to bring attention to the impact that gun violence has on their community.
- Kate Hubbard, College Junior, Keene, NH — Kate is a student at Keene State College, where she worked with youth members of the VT Governors Council on how to create gun safety laws. She has also lobbied with other NH advocates to help change gun safety bills in the upcoming session. Kate is also working with Gun Sense VT to host by state, rallies, as well as host future rallies at Keene State to bring awareness about the gun trafficking issue between states.
- Anam Hussain, High School Senior, Douglasville, GA — Anam is a junior at Douglas County High School and an active member in multiple organizations, such as UNICEF and Young Democrats Club. She organized her school’s walkout on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting and is an active organizer for March for Our Lives Atlanta.
- Samantha Hysa, College Freshman, Parkland, FL — Samantha is a survivor of the Parkland massacre who started her own nonprofit organization, Students Speak Up Inc., which supports youth-led activism. Through her organization, Samantha aims to support other young activists with networking, voter registration, organizing, and more.
- Isabel Kaegi, High School Sophomore, Palatine, IL — Isabel is a board member of the Chicago chapter of March For Our Lives (MFOL), which combines the MFOL mission with a focus on the rampant urban gun violence in Chicago. Isabel led an all school assembly as a substitution for the national walkout on March 14th. She attended St. Sabina and Father Michael Pfleger’s annual peace march in Chicago and the March For Our Lives in Washington DC.
- Madison Knoop, College Sophomore, Johnson, VT — Madison is a student at Northern Vermont University. She is politically involved and often volunteers with Giffords-endorsed candidates. In addition to lobbying for common sense gun laws in Vermont state legislature Madison organized the March for Our Lives event in the capital of Vermont. Additionally, Madison is starting a youth-led chapter of Gun Sense Vermont.
- Sydney Lewis, High School Junior, Eden Prairie, MN — Sydney has been an outspoken advocate for gun violence prevention in the state of Minnesota through Students Demand Action, Eden Prairie chapter. Sydney frequently volunteers with Giffords-endorsed candidates to educate voters on gun safety.
- Jacob Martinez, High School Junior, Mesa, AZ — Jacob is an active member of American Youth in Politics and previously worked on a project with Arizonans for Gun Safety. After witnessing the Republican party’s continued inaction in the face of the nation’s gun violence crisis, Jacob decided to step down from his role as the chairman of Arizona Teenage Republicans. Jacob now works with March for Our Lives Arizona to advocate for bipartisan solutions to address gun violence.
- Megan McGuire, High School Senior, Santa Fe, TX — Megan is a survivor of the Santa Fe High School shooting. “The truth is that whatever we are doing as a society—or not doing—is not working,” she said in a press conference shortly after the May shooting. “Inaction is not an option.” Megan co-founded a nonprofit, Orange Generation, which aims to bring together younger students within the gun reform movement, especially in southern, red-leaning states.
- Lane Murdock, High School Junior, Ridgefield, CT — On the anniversary of the Columbine shooting, Lane and fellow students organized the National School Walkout. Currently Lane works on amplifying all types of young voices who advocate for gun violence prevention.
- Ke’Shon Newman, High School Sophomore, Chicago, IL — Ke’Shon has been a prominent student activist in the gun violence movement. Ke’Shon’s brother died after being shot nine times on Chicago’s South Side. He has been featured in several documentaries on gun violence, including a seven-minute New York Times film “His Brother was Shot in Chicago. He’s Marching with Students from Parkland” and the Giffords documentary “How Many More?”.
- Elijah Nichols, College Freshman, Muskegon County, MI — Elijah is a native of Muskegon County, Michigan, rated one of the deadliest urban areas in Michigan. Elijah co-founded the Youth Activism Coalition, an organization designed to connect young students and help them become politically active. As a rising freshman at George Mason University, Elijah has started a Students Demand Action chapter on campus.
- Kathryn Ritchie, High School Junior, Long Island, NY — Kathryn has witnessed firsthand how many people’s lives have been destroyed by urban gun violence. She’s actively sought out opportunities to learn about and help combat urban gun violence, including working with Students Demand Action, helping organize her school’s walkout and attending March for Our Lives New York and Long Island events.
- Kayla Schaefer, High School Junior, Parkland, FL — Kayla has been outspoken about what it was like to be at Parkland during the mass shooting in February. She was featured in the Giffords documentary “How Many More?”. In April, she was one of 60 students form Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who traveled to Littleton, Colorado, to commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School mass shooting.
- Olivia Wesch, High School Junior, Parkland, FL — Olivia joined Kayla Shaefer in describing what it was like to live through the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in the Giffords documentary “How Many More?”. In June, she, Kayla Schaefer, and Ke’Shon Newman accepted Giffords Law Center’s 2018 Lifesaving Service Award on behalf of student activists from across the country. The documentary has earned Olivia, Kayla, and Ke’Shon attention from prominent political leaders, including Hillary Clinton.
- Alexis Willis, High School Sophomore, Chicago, IL — Alexis just finished her freshman year at North Lawndale College Prep High School, where she trained to be a Peace Warrior, a group of students who dedicate themselves to easing the violence that permeates their world. Alexis has a personal motivation for fighting gun violence—her cousin was shot and killed as he walked with a friend in an alley near his home when he was 16, just a few months older than Alexis is now.
- Kenidra Woods, High School Senior, Ferguson, MO — Kenidra has been an activist since she was 13, when riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri. The St. Louis native has been actively involved with the Black Lives Matter movement and is an advocate for self-harm and suicide prevention. Kenidra is the author of “A Heart of Hope,” and in June, she launched the first-ever Hope for Humanity Project: National Rally for Peace in St. Louis. She was featured on the cover of Teen Vogue’s gun issue and played an active part in organizing the National School Walkout.
- Audrey Wright, High School Junior, Chicago, IL — Audrey is a student at North Lawndale College Prep-Christiana Campus and the current President of Peace Warriors, a student-based group that has become a leading organization in the national youth movement against gun violence. Peace Warriors recently joined together with the March for Our Lives organizers.
- Ellie Younger, High School Senior, Portland, OR — Ellie is a Portland activist who spoke at the March for Our Lives PDX on the effects of gun violence. Ellie serves in her high school’s student government working on community outreach.
- Hunter Yuille, 19, Portland, OR — Hunter has been reminded every day for the last six years of the impact gun violence has on victims’ loved ones. Hunter’s mom was shot and killed in an Oregon mall when he was 13, an experience that has prompted Hunter to look for opportunities like the Courage Fellowship to help prevent another family from having to experience the same kind of pain.
The fellowship will place participants in the heart of the gun violence prevention discussion. Courage Fellows will take part in a number of activities, including trips to Washington DC, where they’ll be provided the opportunity to network, learn from one another and expand their knowledge of gun policy. When not in Washington DC, fellows will participate in a number of activities, including topical webinars on gun violence prevention and conference calls. They’ll also be challenged to create an end of the year “Take-Action project.”
Over the course of the yearlong program, fellows will:
- Learn from nationally recognized leaders in gun violence prevention.
- Network with other dynamic student leaders from around the nation.
- Work in a team to develop and implement a community-based gun violence prevention project.
- Build critical communication, organizing and advocacy skills.
- Meet with legislators to discuss the importance of taking action to keep kids safe from gun violence.
- Develop new tools and resources to advance gun violence education and prevention.
Courage Fellows will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of trainings, events, and meetings that will help them learn from one another and sharpen their activism skills.