Press Release

14 Young Leaders Seeking to Inspire Change in their Communities Selected for the Giffords Courage Fellowship

In second year for program, new fellows will fuel the fight to save lives from gun violence 

Seven leaders from the inaugural year will serve as Senior Fellows and assist the new class 

June 24, 2019 Over a year ago, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas ignited a movement of young people ready to create a future in America free of everyday gun violence. To help and empower young advocates seeking to create change, last year Giffords launched the Courage Fellowship. Now in its second year, today the program announced the 2019 class of fellows. The 14 student leaders chosen for the program will travel to Washington DC in August for a three-day team building and organizing workshop meeting.  

This year, the program is also tapping seven senior fellows, leaders from the previous year’s Courage Fellow cohort, who will assist the 2019 class with their efforts. The program 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.

“Young Americans aren’t sitting on the sidelines – they are standing up and declaring that gun safety is a fight their generation will win,” said former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords. “From coast to coast, these leaders have made incredible differences in their communities and across the country. They know that if we want to stop the shootings in our schools and neighborhoods, we must act. We’re thrilled to work with this inspiring class of Courage Fellows as they come together to find solutions and make a lasting impact.”

Giffords Courage Fellows 2019 Class:

  • Eliana Andrews, 16, Portland, OR — 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.
  • Elliott Canty, 18, New Orleans, LA — 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, 19, Houston, TX — 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.
  • Sydney Clinton, 17, Charleston, SC — 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.
  • Saida Dahir, 18, Salt Lake City, UT — 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.
  • Kathryn Fleisher, 20, Cleveland, OH — 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 common sense 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.”
  • Madison Hahamy, 18, Glencoe, IL — 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.
  • Malavika Kannan, 18, Orlando, FL — 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.
  • Elizabeth Lancaster, 19, Grand Rapids, MI — 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 RapJuids 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.
  • Yasmine Mabene, 17, 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.
  • Juliette Ochoa, 17, 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.
  • Gracie Pekrul, 17, Simi Valley, CA — 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.
  • Tanvi Reddy, 18, Atlanta, GA — 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.
  • Ethan Somers, 19, Evergreen, CO — 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.

This year’s Senior Fellows include:

  • Ethan Asher, 17, High School Senior, Roswell, GA — Ethan is the co-founder and Executive Director for the March for Our Lives Georgia. His hard work with MFOL was recognized with a Diller Tikkun Olam Award. He is also the founder and director of the Hate Free America Coalition, which aims to bring together faith leaders, law enforcement, and politicians to prevent and respond to hate crimes. Ethan also has introduced legislation in the Georgia legislature to create a joint committee to study the intersection of mental health and gun violence.
  • Elijah Nichols, 18, College Sophomore, 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. Elijah has started a Students Demand Action chapter on campus at his college, George Mason University. He is the Policy and Advocacy Director for “Not My Generation,” a youth summit focused on gun violence prevention planned for the fall.
  • Kathryn Ritchie, 17, High School Senior, Long Island, NY — Kathryn has witnessed firsthand how many people’s lives have been destroyed by urban gun violence. She has actively sought out opportunities to learn about and help combat gun violence, including co-organizing the March on the NRA NYC and educating her community on the importance of the youth vote for social change through the initiative New York Pre-Registration Push.
  • Katie Eder, 19, College Freshman, Shorewood, WI — Katie is the Executive Director of Future Coalition, the largest network of youth-led organizations and youth organizers in the US. Future Coalition works to provide young people with the tools, support, and resources they need to create the change they want to see in their communities and across the country. Katie is also a co-founder of 50 Miles More, a student-led group that strives to keep the national conversation focused on the demand for gun reform. She is currently taking a gap year to continue working for Future Coalition before she enters Stanford University in Fall 2020.
  • Lane Murdock, High School Senior, 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. She received an award from the non-profit Do Something and is a recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit of Courage Award.
  • Brianna Heiges, 18, College Freshman, Davie, FL — Brianna’s best friend was a survivor of the Parkland shooting and another friend was shot a few months ago. To fight for her friends, 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. Brianna will be attending Nova Southeastern University as a Political Science major with a preliminary acceptance into their law school program.
  • Anam Hussain, College Freshman, Douglasville, GA — Anam is a freshman at American University. In high school, she organized her school’s walkout on the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. She previously interned for Giffords-endorsed candidate Stacey Abrams and currently serves on the state board for March For Our Lives Georgia.

The fellowship will place participants in the heart of the gun violence prevention discussion. Courage Fellows will take part in a number of activities in Washington, D.C. including two three-day trainings and a lobbying day on Capitol Hill. In between fly-ins, Fellows will be given the resources to complete their own engagement project in which they will promote gun violence prevention in their local communities.    

Over the course of the semester-long 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.