2018 Wilton Delegation


Jordan Gomes in the middle



Moraa Nyakoe and Chloe Simpson

Four and a half hours away from home, six girls sit around a table having a conversation long overdue.

One weekend in November, a group of girls from NDP traveled to Connecticut along with six girls from the Institute of Notre Dame and six from Academy of the Holy Angels. The six girls to go were Gini Okoronkwo, Grace Hayden, Bella Lawton, Chloe Simpson, and Moraa Nyakoe. Although awkward at first, we made friends quickly over pizza. Over the next couple of days, we would proceed to talk about the issue of gun violence and what to do within our schools. Sadly, the heavy issue had fallen on our backs but all eighteen girls were ready to take it on.

There were three guest speakers that the SSNDs invited to come to the conference and speak to the delegates: Jordan Gomes, Mary Beth Nelson, and Kelsey Reeder. Each one of them shared their experiences and wisdom.

The first guest speaker to come in was Jordan Gomes from the New Town Action Alliance. Jordan shared her personal experience with gun violence and told her story as a witness of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Jordan talked about how experiencing this event as a kid in the school has spurred her on to advocate for stronger gun control. She talked about her participation in many widespread, student-led organizations, such as the Student Bill Of Rights that she helped to make in Washington, D.C., which can be found at this link: https://studentgunviolencesummit.com/student-bill-of-rights/ . As someone who was a teenager just like us, she talked also about how to advocate and get involved even if we were too young to vote. She also talked about how to have conversations about the issue with not only people that agreed with her, but people that disagreed as well. It was very powerful to hear about her personal experience, and inspiring to hear how a girl our age could make such a difference.

The next guest speaker to come was Mary Beth Nelson, from the Sandy Hook Promise. She talked about the state of gun violence in the U.S. and what we can do about it. She shared with us some statistics about the terrible abundance of gun violence and shootings in the United States; how 314 people are shot a day, 94 of which are under the age of 18, and 56 of which are suicides. She also said that as of February 2018, there have been 239 school shootings since Sandy Hook. Ms. Nelson went on to talk about her nonprofit, the Sandy Hook Promise, that was started by families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. The nonprofit focuses on various prevention programs and research based health and wellness programs. She gave us various strategies on recognizing signs of people who may be a danger to themselves or others, such as the SAVE Promise club, the Start With Hello program, and the Say Something program. All three of these focus on raising awareness of people who are at-risk, and how to reach out to them and prevent possible violence. She also talked about various laws in place that deal with the issue of gun violence, such as the Red Flag Laws, which are implemented in 11 states and remove guns from at-risk people. Mary Beth Nelson helped the delegates to learn more about what they can do and the programs they can implement at NDP.

Lastly, Kelsey Reeder came in to speak to the conference. Kelsey is a Licensed Master Social Worker who works for the Harlem Children’s Zone, the Global Potential Program, and as a crisis worker on a lifeline. She talked to us all about how to facilitate these challenging discussions about gun violence, and how to lead them within our own communities or schools. She gave us the tools to leading a successful discussion, which she demonstrated by holding various exercises and discussions. One of the most powerful exercises she was able to show the delegates was one called Common Ground. This activity helped to create awareness about the differences and commonalities within the group. It helped each person to learn more about the social identities of the people they were around, and to find common ground with people experiencing the same issues. This was an eye-opening experience for everyone. She also talked about the bias and issues in the media, and the steps in developing and forming a group that will complete discussions about issues. Kelsey Reeder helped to teach how to facilitate difficult discussions, and how important it is that we have these discussions in our communities.

After listening to such empowering voices, we were all very excited to write out an action plan. Each school had a different plan for the future dependent on the circumstances. After presenting the plans to the sisters, it was time to say our goodbyes. We left making a pact however, that whatever happened in Wilton would not stay in Wilton.