Reducing Gun Violence with the Summer Youth Institute

May 26, 2023

In 2020, Professor Daniel Webster, Associate Professor Cassandra Crifasi and Rebecca Williams designed an online summer program for youth to build data and advocacy skills to reduce gun violence. Their goal was to equip high school students who are committed to gun violence prevention with the tools to effectively advocate for policy change using data and evidence-based research. They also wanted to facilitate the development of gun violence prevention and advocacy networks among teenagers with varying backgrounds and experiences. 

Due to the COVID pandemic, they created a virtual Summer Youth Institute (SYI) using innovative technologies and digital tools, rather than an in-person program, as had been planned. With funding from the Initiative, they provided scholarships to 56 students across the U.S. for the four-day program, paying special attention to involve communities of color most impacted by gun violence.  

In addition to faculty at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, presenters included national experts on community gun violence prevention, police violence, and suicide prevention. Students worked in small groups with faculty to solve problems, identify policy priorities, and develop “elevator speeches” that would work in common policy environments.  

When the Summer Youth Institute ended, students said they intended to engage with advocacy groups. Those already engaged with these groups were enthused to bring back knowledge, skills, and renewed inspiration. They value their new professional network, keep in touch with one another regularly through a group chat, and engage with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions through email and social media. Public educational offerings are routinely shared and students proactively reshare and promote opportunities. Additionally, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Magazine included the piece, Youth Voices Against Racism, featuring SYI 2020 student, Kayla Adams, of Baltimore City, Maryland. The article can be accessed at the following link:  

Finally, the Summer Youth Institute was part of a presentation at the APHA 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo: Evidence for change: Promoting equity and civic action through innovations in gun violence prevention education. 

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