This post was written by Jeanette Bavwidinsi, Director for the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement

Our hearts go out to the nineteen angels and two teachers who were tragically taken from their families, friends and community yesterday in Uvalde, Texas.  School should be a place of wonderment, imagination, and joy – but unfortunately, from Uvalde, Texas to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – young people are finding fewer spaces where they feel safe.

America has a gun problem. Full stop. 

For those who wish to lay blame for these tragic events solely at the feet of mental health, it diminishes the fact that there are millions of young Americans who are facing and coping with mental health struggles everyday who do not go out and perform acts of violence.

America has a gun problem. 

That said, the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement (OYE) stands in solidarity with the members of the Philadelphia Youth Commission and all of the young people nationally and locally who are fighting everyday to correct an issue that they did not create.

From the young folx at Youth United for Change and PA Youth Vote who advocate for legislators to listen to the voices of Gen-Z Philadelphians. To brave community leaders like Akayla Brown, who’ve created their own resource centers so that their peers have a safe space to just…be.

To the bold young journalists over at the Bullhorn, who’ve made it their charge to report on the needs of their peers. To the lionhearted teens over at YEAH Philly and NOMO, who fearlessly keep their foot on the gas and refuse to let up until their vision for a better Philadelphia is seen.

This nation will be okay because the aforementioned young people are leading.

That does not negate that fact that it is the responsibility of our leaders to act now. We continue to work alongside the administration and youth-led/youth-serving grassroots community organizations as we try to solve these issues as a city.

May the memories of those 19 angels be a comfort to their families. We send our condolences to the entire Uvalde community as they navigate this devastating loss.

Our young people deserve so much better. We promise to continue to elevate their voices and stand behind them as they light the way forward.

-Team OYE