Woodland Hills students reflect on violent year and turning their pain into change

CHURCHILL, Pa. — On a field behind Woodland Hills High School, hundreds of graduates will fill the seats, but for three of them, those seats will remain empty.

“I wonder about that every day who else are we going to lose?” said sophomore Domonique Brown Taylor.

“Who’s next? Who do I have to prepare myself for?,” said Demi Berry, who’s just a freshman.

“God forbid it could be one of us, and that is a really scary thought,” said sophomore Amira Henderson Thomas.

It’s the chilling reality for this group of teenagers from Woodland Hills High School.

“Kids are now scared to go outside because they are scared they are never going to go back home,” Taylor said.

The impact of gun violence has touched each and every one of this group of girls changing their high school experience.

“I had lost one of my closest friends in the beginning of the school year, then everything went downhill but I started healing in the process and then it happened again and again,” Berry said.

Seven students were shot just this school year and four lost their lives. Three of them seniors, leaving three empty chairs on the field for graduation in the coming days.

“It’s more of a numbness feeling now, it’s becoming too normal. It’s too normal in the community,” said senior Miauri Bradley.

That’s why this year’s commencement speaker is someone who’s lived it too.

“Your today doesn’t have to be your tomorrow,” said Lee Davis, the Director of Violence Prevention for Greater Valley Community Services.

Davis works to curb the violence in the Mon Valley. He leads a team that hopes to show these kids there is more as they walk into the door of adulthood.

“We are instilling hope in the community and in the kids and can be part of the change. They can be part of the healing process in their own communities,” Davis said.

These teens are ready for that change and want to be part of that solution.

“Tragedy is temporary,” said sophomore Nijaya Estes.

“We can let them know you have a shoulder to lean on and we can lead them on the right path,” Brown Taylor said.

Woodland Hills will hold graduation on June 6th.

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