Parkland school shooting survivor speaks in Chicago on 1 year anniversary of massacre

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One year after the Parkland school shooting, survivor and senior Brandon Dasent spent his day in Chicago because he wants to help other communities as much as possible.

"No one should be alone during a time like this," Dasent said. "We're all a family, as far as I'm concerned."

Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) invited Dasent to a kick-off event for the "Rethinking Safety Campaign." The campaign, which includes educators, social workers, and medical experts, has a three-prong mission, organizer said.

Their three goals are:

1) Have state lawmakers approve grant money for programs that support mental health services at schools across the state

2) Have schools provide detailed information about school arrests, including race

3) Have schools create clinics with social workers and psychiatrists

VOYCE members plan to visit Springfield and push lawmakers for money.

"(School) safety does not mean more police officers. Safety does not mean metal detectors. Safety does not mean criminalizing us," said Ruby Ruiz, a VOYCE member. "Do you know what safety means? Safety is more mental and behavioral health services."

Dasent plans to talk to a counselor about the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He has not sought professional help up to this point, but he definitely agreed it's necessary.

"Right now, speaking to a camera and two people or a room full of 700 people, that's my therapy," he said.

Members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the National Association for Social Workers in Illinois, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Education Association and Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago attended the news conference with Dasent. All of them support more mental health services for students.

In fact, out of all the students who need services, only 20-25 percent get the help they need, said Colleen Cicchetti, executive director of Lurie Children's Center for Childhood Resilience.

Dasent said the shooting changed his life in an instant, ending his childhood forever. He said he's learned to use his voice to make a difference, a platform he never expected to have.

"You have to be the one to use your voice," Dasent said. "Not your fists or bullets, but your voice, your mind, and your heart to create that path for you and your loved ones to escape your current situation."
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