I’ve always known gun violence is a major problem in our country. But it wasn’t until my best friend survived the shooting in Parkland at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that I knew I wanted to be a part of the solution. After Parkland, I met with local officials and legislators, I traveled to Tallahassee for a rally for gun safety at the Florida State Capitol, and I applied to the Giffords Courage Fellowship.
I was a member of the first class of Giffords Courage Fellows. We received training and mentorship in organizing, policy, and politics: how to work with the press, plan an event, lobby lawmakers, and more. After my experience and training through the Fellowship, I felt empowered not only to make a difference in my community, but also to help pass along a bit of what I learned. Unfortunately, since completing the Fellowship, I lost another friend to gun violence. So I’m coming back this year as a Senior Fellow with a renewed sense of purpose to ensure that he did not die in vain. I am looking forward to serving as a mentor and guiding the newest crop of Courage Fellows in 2019. I’m excited to get to know these passionate young activists who are ready to hone their advocacy skills and make this country safer.
Meet the 2019 class of Giffords Courage Fellows:
Eliana Andrews | Portland, OR | @Eliana_444
Eliana helped to found March For Our Lives Portland, where she worked with Oregon state senators to move forward critical gun violence prevention legislation. She testified in favor of Senate Bill 978 and organized multiple lobby days at the state capital. Eliana is a junior at Lincoln High School in Portland.
Elliott Canty | New Orleans, LA | @CantyElliott
Elliott is the co-director of March For Our Lives Louisiana. He spoke at the inaugural march in New Orleans and has since hosted town halls with Parkland survivors to help bring attention to gun violence in his community and mobilize his generation to take advantage of their political power.
Jacob Castillo | Houston, TX | @Jacob__Castillo
Jacob was exposed to gun violence at an early age, which helped him to understand the intersection between issues of gun violence and communities of color. He is a Campaign Fellow with the Movement School, which aims to translate activism into political power. Jacob has also spoken at the United Nations as an advocate against sexual assault. Jacob is a sophomore at the University of Houston.
Sydney Clinton | Charleston, SC | @sydneygclinton
Sydney first got involved in gun violence prevention in February 2018 with March for Our Lives Charleston and went on to found Lowcountry Students for Political Action. At LSPA, Sydney has worked to pass common sense gun legislation to close the Charleston Loophole both at the state and federal level. Sydney is a senior at Fort Dorchester High School in Charleston.
Saida Dahir | Salt Lake City, UT | @saida_dahir
Saida was born in a refugee camp and came to the United States when she was three years old. With the prevalence of gun violence in her home country of Somalia, she was struck by the gun violence epidemic in the United States as well. Saida has used her experience to lobby for gun safety. She performed spoken word poetry in front of thousands at the March for Our Lives in Salt Lake City. Saida is a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley.
Kathryn Fleisher | Cleveland, OH | @kathrynfleisher
Kathryn is a research fellow in the Pittsburgh Mayor’s Office as well as an intern in Senator Jacky Rosen’s DC office. Kathryn is actively involved in the gun violence prevention movement and currently serves as the Reform Jewish movement’s Gun Violence Prevention Campaign Co-chair. She also helped mobilize the local Pittsburgh community and the wider Jewish community for commonsense gun reform after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. Currently, Kathryn is organizing an intersectional gun violence prevention summit for young adults in Washington, DC entitled, “Not My Generation.” Kathryn is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh.
Madison Hahamy | Glencoe, IL | @MHahamy
Madison’s gun violence prevention activism began with Since Parkland, a project that chronicled the lives of 1200 American kids who were killed by guns in the year since the Parkland shooting. Drawing inspiration from her work as a Senior Project Reporter for the series, she co-founded the Aurora chapter of March For Our Lives. Madison is a freshman at Yale University.
Malavika Kannan | Orlando, FL | @malavikawrites
Malavika is a writer who has shined a spotlight on victims of gun violence. She led 400 students from her high school in a walkout to demand gun safety reform. Her experience organizing and her reactions to the Pulse nightclub and Parkland shootings have shaped her passion for gun violence prevention activism. Malavika is a freshman at Stanford University.
Elizabeth Lancaster | Grand Rapids, MI | @elzbthlncstr
Just five weeks after coordinating her school walkout, Elizabeth hosted the March For Our Lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At just under 6,000 attendees, it was the largest rally in Grand Rapids history. When she arrived at college, Elizabeth founded Students Against Gun Violence at Michigan State University, lobbying the board of trustees to reverse their policy of concealed carry. Elizabeth is a junior at MSU.
Yasmine Mabene | San Diego, CA
Yasmine is a political analyst for March For Our Lives San Diego. She is involved with a teen activist podcast and organized a town hall for local politicians, community members, and activists to discuss gun violence prevention. With her organizing experience and strong writing skills, Yasmine created a presentation to teach others how to contact their elected officials that was delivered at a local writing campaign. Yasmine is a senior at Ranch Bernardo High School in San Diego.
Juliette Ochoa | Norwalk, CT
Disturbed by the epidemic of gun violence both in the United States and in Colombia, Juliette has refused to sit idly by. She founded the Teens to Teens club at her high school to work with students to organize for social issues, including gun violence prevention. While interning for Connecticut State Representative Matt Blumenthal, she supported and attended the bill signing for two gun violence prevention bills. Juliette is a freshman at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Gracie Pekrul | Simi Valley, CA | @gracieleeart
Gracie is a student activist, a prolific artist, and the director of March For Our Lives Ventura County. Her portraits of the Parkland shooting victims and of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords went viral and have been shared at dozens of gun violence prevention protests. She uses art to bring awareness to gun violence and as healing for victims, survivors, and family members. Gracie is a senior at Oak Park Independent School in Simi Valley.
Tanvi Reddy | Alpharetta, GA | @T__REDDY
Tanvi has extensive experience meeting with members of Congress to advocate for gun safety legislation though her work with the March For Our Lives and Team Enough lobbying collective in Washington, DC. She has become the collective’s official lobbying coordinator and is organizing young people to educate and lobby for gun reform. Back home in Georgia, Tanvi co-founded an Activism Club at her high school, where she organized meetings to foster political dialogue and directed the planning of her school walkout to protest gun violence. She is actively involved with the March For Our Lives DC and George Washington University chapters. This summer, she is interning for Congresswoman Lucy McBath as a legislative intern focusing on gun violence prevention. Tanvi is a sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Ethan Somers | Denver, CO | @ethanjsomers
Ethan is the communications director for March For Our Lives DC and has a passion for working with youth activists. He coordinated a letter writing campaign, compiling over 6,000 letters from across the country to send to their elected officials in favor of gun safety legislation. He focuses on bringing attention to everyday gun violence and advocating for underrepresented communities. Ethan is a senior at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
If you’re looking for the next generation of leaders, look no further. These 14 young advocates are fighting for change in their communities and in the nation’s capital. I can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish.
- Read the press release announcing the 2019 class of Giffords Courage Fellows
- Learn more about the fellowship