CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A student-initiated program Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) is giving young people and outlet to talk about violence and ways to promote nonviolence. With the recent shootings community wide people have encouraged youth to get in on the conversation.
Gary Weart was the first adviser and co-founder of SAVE. It's a nonprofit he started with his students in North Carolina after one of his students was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight. He also lead a chapter at Academic Magnet High School.
"The kids started it, the kids own it, the kids lead," Weart said. "It's not a reactive thing it's a proactive thing."
Weart says after the death of his student Alex Orange in 1989 the students came together with a vision that all students will be able to attend a school that is safe, secure, free of fear, and conducive to learning.
"That desk was empty and that hurts," Weart said. "When teachers go to the funerals of their students there's something really really wrong with that."
Weart has been teaching for 41 years and 14 of his students died to violence.
That vision to promote safety in schools and the community has expanded beyond North Carolina. It's 26 years later and there are chapters of SAVE in 48 states along with other countries including students from kindergarten to college. The students participate in crime prevention activities and learn about the consequences of violence.
One of the initiatives is safe school week for elementary school kids.
"We're going to wear our pajamas to school and we're going to put violence to rest, so the little kids like that," Weart said. "The high school and middle school kids will go into the elementary school."
The organization is empowering youth to make a difference.
"Hopefully the future will be better because the young people will change some of that," Weart said.
If you'd like more information about the nonprofit or if you'd like to start a chapter you can contact 866-343-SAVE.