Crime & Safety
In an effort to reduce gun violence in young folks, Rochester teenager created special campaign
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Last year, at least 42 young people under the age of 18 were shot in Rochester. This is more than the year before.
A teen who wants things to change said something about the problem.
Since he was 16, when he started the youth-led program We Got This, Isaiah Santiago has been speaking out against gun violence among young people. It’s meant to help solve the problem that keeps happening.
“Around that time, two of my friends were killed by guns,” said Santiago. “I had some doubts about how I, as a young person, could help my peers.”
Now that he is a freshman in college, he still sees the effects of gun violence among young people, and he knows that the fight is far from over.
“I’ve lost three people to gun violence,” he said. “One of them was my close cousin.” “It’s been hard to go through a semester and lose so many people to gun violence, and then to see so many other people, 12-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and so on…”
So he keeps telling people about We Got This in the hopes of getting young people off the streets and helping them deal with violence in any way he can.
“Through arts, music, and talents, we can get young people who might not be on the right path back on the right path, both proactively and reactively, by working with the Monroe County probation office,” Santiago said. “It gives them a chance to think about that instead of the bad things in the community.
It comes when he knows they most need it.
“What the young people are asking for right now is help,” Santiago said. “At this point, they’re not yelling for help; we’re yelling for help—and for something new.”
“Gun violence is like a cycle,” he said. “When you lose a friend or family member to gun violence, it’s easy to get violent yourself because you’re so angry and hurt by this person’s death.”
So, he talks a lot about how important it is to include young people in conversations about gun violence and how important it is to understand and deal with how gun violence affects mental health.
“I believe that… “Even though I’m young, I’ve been able to show a lot of other young people that their voices matter,” said Santiago. “Most of the time, young people are not at these tables or in these talks about them. And that’s part of what we have to deal with.”