Spring break trip combats Chicago violence

March 12, 2013 3:17:55 PM PDT
Some Howard University students are skipping the beach this spring break- instead opting to bond with at-risk Chicago teens.

"The fact that there are so many children losing their lives and the issue of gun violence is such a big deal that it's national news," D'Auria Henry, Howard University student, said.

Each day this week, the Howard University students will spend time with students from Perspectives High School in the Auburn-Gresham community and discuss topics like social trust, conflict resolution and life beyond high school. Khaheem Hill welcomes the dialogue. He's lost close friends and neighbors to gun violence.

"Sometimes you hold all of it in and it gets tough because you don't know how people will judge you because you live in this neighborhood," Hill said.

Some of the toughest neighborhoods around the country will be visited by Howard students this week as part of a competitive community service program at the university called Alternative Spring Break.

"We've got bullying issues in Atlanta, gun violence in Chicago, literacy in Detroit," Henry said.

This is the third year Howard students have come to Perspectives High School. Those who have taken part in previous sessions say their visit makes a lasting impression.

"I feel like through the conversations I've seen students become more confident, more safe in sharing with their peers and start to believe that college can be a reality for them," Katie Immen, teacher, said.

"They're very enthusiastic, they communicate effectively with us. You develop a real strong bond with them," Aaliyah Muse, Perspectives High School student, said.

There are two other groups of Howard students in Chicago this week-- one is petitioning for gun control laws and another is helping to complete a memorial to children lost to gun violence.

They head back to their campus in Washington, D.C. on Friday.