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New Orleanians create 'Save Our Youth' program to help protect children from gun violence

William and Brideisha were born and raised in Central City. During those years they’ve seen their fair share of gun violence.

NEW ORLEANS — One local family scarred by gun violence said it will take much more than an executive order to bring safety to their community. In looking at kid pictures of Brideisha Harness Parker and her older brother William Pennington, they’re full of innocence. That innocence stopped in William’s early teens.

“I grabbed his hand with the gun, and I tried to take it like that, when I did, he shot it,” said William.

That was back in 2000, at the former Carter G. Woodson Middle school. William said he got into an argument with another student who eventually snuck a gun into the schoolyard and shot him.

“It’s hard thing to go through being shot, especially at school, one of the places you know you should be safe,” said William.

Headlines often focus on deaths from gun violence, but the aftermath for survivors like William may get less attention.

“As far as my life, I couldn’t go back to school. I couldn’t get my G.E.D. That made it hard for me to get jobs and the opportunities I wanted,” said William.

The shooting traumatized their family and Brideisha said far too many others in her neighborhood can relate. From her view, there is a desperate need to help people wounded in shootings.

“What resources are truly provided to them in terms of them to get back on their feet, to get mentally in the right state of mind or physically be able to move around with their families,” said Brideisha.

William and Brideisha were born and raised in Central City. During those years they’ve seen their fair share of gun violence. They also have heard their fair share of promises to address it. President Biden’s announcement on executive action to attempt to curb shootings doesn’t mean much to them.

“All that stuff at the national level, it never reaches us below the poverty line,” said Brideisha.

Hoping to protect kids from guns, Brideisha helped create Save Our Youth NOLA. It’s a non-profit that steers children to job opportunities, athletics and mentoring programs.

“My daughter is going to have to live in this if I don’t fix this along with other community members,” said Brideisha.

Save Our Youth NOLA’s outreach programs have been mobile. The founders said they’re hoping to raise enough money to establish a physical headquarters. For William and Brideisha, the debate about guns isn’t political. It’s personal.

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