LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Three years ago, Central High School adopted its first chapter of the national non-profit organization ‘Students Demand Action’.
The goal is to educate people about how damaging gun violence is in hopes to try to stop it.
Insherah Qazi and Samia Smith are seniors at Central high who have been co-chapter leads since their sophomore year. Both jumped into action for a similar reason.
“I had a cousin who was around 14-15 who was shot in the arm. I joined Students Demand Action two months after,” Smith said.
“I’ve had friends who’ve lost loved ones due to gun violence,” Qazi said. “This is an issue and affects everyone.”
The group at Central high has about 75 members with 40 of them being actively involved in events and education anyone they can.
“We reach out not only at our school, but community events as well,” Smith said. “One year we wrote over 200 voter postcards for voters in the central Little Rock area just to raise awareness for voting. Voting and looking at candidates are a big part of making sure we focus on gun sense and keeping the gun violence crisis away.”
“Students Demand Action serves the purpose of making the community safer for those who do not feel safe,” Qazi added.
According to everytownresearch.org, every day there are more than 100 people in America are killed by guns. Central high school had a shooting incident in October 2021, when a drive-by shooting had two stray bullets hit an occupied classroom. So, do these students feel safe in their communities?
“It’s hard to say because, while I may feel safe, I’ve made a dedication to making sure everyone else does as well,” Smith said. “We all go to the same school, but the second we leave the doors we’re all going to different places. Where I go may not be the same place as where my best friend may go. It’s different for everybody.”
To make sure people feel safe, these girls want to educate people in person and online.
“We have posts talking about the statistics on how gun violence impacts America and specific communities,” Qazi said.
“When we’re talking about gun violence and how it affects specifically our age group and those around us, it starts with discussion,” Smith explained. “Once you educate yourself it’s easier to educate others.”
With a passionate message and growing numbers, other organizations from around Central high are catching on.
“Seeing different organizations who may not focus on gun violence at all want to partner with us when it comes to voter registration events or different meetings where we talk about different issues,” Smith said. “It’s showing that there’s a mentality there that people care. And that’s something I didn’t see before joining Students Demand Action. That’s super important because then we can take the next steps that actually make change.”
Now, Samia and Insherah are both seniors and will graduate soon. However, their work is not nearly close to being done.
“I would love to continue this work, being the first chapter at Central, wherever I go,” Smith said. “But also leaving an impression on the people in our chapter.”