In this school year, nine Baltimore City students died as a result of violence. CEO of Schools Sonja Santelises and Mayor Catherine Pugh held a memorial vigil Wednesday for them and all city school students.
In front of city school headquarters on North Avenue, Santelises read off the names of the nine students and tolled a bell for each one.
It ended with a moment of silence from the administrators, parents, and students who were there. Then Pugh spoke about how Baltimore is losing its next generation.
“Violence reduction, as you all know, is my number on priority," said Pugh. "And even though we are reducing violence we are not reducing it fast enough.”
Santelises invited students from a performing arts group at Augusta Fells Savage High School to not only remember the lives cut short, but also to celebrate the potential of all students to succeed.
One of the students, 9th grader, Devine Carr, sang an acapella rendition of ‘Rise Up.’
Damon’tae Taylor, another 9th grader, says one of the nine students killed was one of his best friends in middle school. He says he appreciates the mayor’s and Santelises’ efforts.
“A lot of people say, “oh, I’m going to make a change, but not a lot of people putting in the effort," said Taylor. "So this getting together is showing that some people are getting together to make the change for our youth.”
After his friend’s death, Taylor says he considered suicide, but after receiving counseling and help, he has a new motto in life.
“I call it the triple Ls which means: live, learn, and love," said Taylor. "Love everyone you can love. Give a hug to everyone you can. Live one day at a time don’t rush yourself. And just learn. Be welcoming to learn new people.”
Devine Bey, a 10th-grade student performer, says Santelises and Pugh are genuine in their desire to help fuel student’s potentials. Bey says he has asked government officials if they see him "as a project you have to do, " or "as a child in that you can actually help?"
"And I think the mayor is actually taking steps to be the help and not just a project," says Bey. "She actually wants to do this and she cares about us.”
Since January there have 111 homicides in the city—five of whom were kids under the age of 18.