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Students take peace pledge after recent shootings involving teens

Peace ambassadors team with law enforcement, superintendent to stop gun violence

MIAMI – Surrounded by a community of support at the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami, a group of students made a pledge for peace Friday.

"Late one night, when my mother, brother and I were watching TV in the den, I heard gunshots," Miami Carol City Senior High School student Keanna Nembhard said. "My frantic mother crouched to the ground and covered her shaking hands over me and my brother's head."

They're students who have lost classmates to shootings, neighbors and family members.

"One of my neighbors was being bullied by another neighbor, and he thought the only way to get out of it was by using a gun," Homestead Senior High School senior Nia Kerr said. "He ended up shooting my other neighbor and his little brother and sister."

As peace ambassadors, they're working with law enforcement and Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to create awareness and catalyze change. But they're asking for help from business leaders, faith organizers and residents.

"This violence that we're seeing against children cannot be the new normal," U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer said. "Every child has the right to walk home safely from school without being caught in the crossfire."

The violence involving teens has been escalating. Last month, a teen walking home from Miami Northwestern Senior High School was fatally shot. He was the fourth student from that school to be killed this year.

"We should all feel uncomfortable about the fact that over the past two years alone over 140 young people were shot in our community," Carvalho said.

Ten students chose to be peace ambassadors, ending their stories with a moment of music instead of silence to symbolize their commitment to their peers.