From left are a Students Demand Action volunteer, Brandyn Harvey, Zaineh Saleh, Mayor James Butts and Carlos De Santiago. (Shelby Stephens/L.A. Sentinel)

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, there has been a 5.5% increase in gun violence since July 2021. To combat this statistic, the Los Angeles Rams and Inglewood Mayor James Butts, partnered with Students Demand Action Los Angeles Summer Leadership Academy to host this year’s Impact Day at SoFi Stadium to review, discuss, and judge proposals on how to prevent gun violence.

Founded in Summer 2019, the Summer Leadership Academy (SLA) initiative prioritizes removing barriers that keep marginalized students from becoming leaders in the gun violence prevention movement. SLA is a nationwide organization with many chapters across the country.

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California chapter student participants presented project proposals for reducing gun violence to a panel of judges on Sunday, August 21, that consisted of Cam Lynch and Brandyn Harvey, Mayor Butts, Johnathan Franklin, Rams director of Social Justice and Football Development, and Ashley Castillo, a Students Demand Action volunteer and former Summer Leadership Academy participant.

During the event, SLA mentors Brianna Martinez, Emmanuel Macedo, and Ricardo Lopez highlighted the main problem of normalized gun violence while introducing possible solutions developed by their mentees. Part of SLA’s goals are to create spaces, communities, and platforms to encourage change and initiative around gun violence, and last year’s winning proposal exceeded expectations.

Alé Ortiz, one host of the 3 Homegirls No Gun podcast, joined the SLA program in 2020 after she was inspired to educate young people and adults about the direct impact of gun violence in her community. The winning podcast proposal was made a reality and is now available across streaming platforms like Apple and Spotify.

(Shelby Stephens/L.A. Sentinel)

3 Homegirls No Gun shares stories and experiences through podcast media to facilitate conversations about government legislation, youth activism, and solutions to gun violence with the occasional guest.

Sharing why it is important to educate and connect with the community, Franklin said, “Thinking about social justice, you think about access and opportunity.  In 2016 when I joined the Rams, I understood the need for education and equity. We want to provide hope where it doesn’t exist and maintain it where it does and we do this by listening, learning, and responding.”

Franklin also talked about his own personal stories related to gun violence. “I attended Dorsey High School and many of my friends, unfortunately, are no longer around due to gun violence. In November of 2018, I received a call that two of cousins lost their lives, both mothers, due to gun violence. So this rang true for me,” he said.

The winner of the 2022 SLA Impact Day gun violence prevention proposal went to high school student Zaineh Saleh, who pitched The Magazine. The Magazine’s intended purpose is to educate the public on the victories and accomplishments to end gun violence nationwide.

Saleh structured her publication into different sections that reflect on success stories and community program shout outs. Her presentation explored sales management, distribution, and social impact. The Magazine project product proposal will now be supported by Everytown for Gun Safety grassroots network.

Congratulations to Zaineh Saleh on her winning proposal!

To get involved or to learn more about Students Demand Action, visit Home | Students Demand Action or text STUDENTS to 644-33.