CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — It is something the Champaign County Community Coalition always does after a tragedy, and a pandemic was not going to stop that.
When an Urbana teenager was shot and killed, how they communicated was different, but the message of stopping the violence was unchanged. Leaders met virtually with the Coalition for the first time on Tuesday. It was the groups largest meeting to date with more than 200 people tuning in over Zoom and Facebook.
The organization’s mission is to curb violence in the county, but the pandemic has made achieving that goal harder.
“That was happening before COVID-19 hit our country,” says Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin. “It’s still there and it’s being exacerbated by the stress and anxiety and a lack of school and a lack of structure and programs available to our youth.”
Facilitator Tracy Parsons says shooting incidents in the county are ahead of last year’s record pace. Parsons says they have to individually engage at-risk students like they did when the coalition was founded. With summer activities still up in the air, Parsons says they need to put extra effort to help kids from getting involved in gun violence.
“As a community we can no longer just sit back and hope once the stay-at-home order is over we can come back and start trying to address the issue,” says Parsons. “We have to disrupt this right away.”
The group has recruited students to help spread the anti-violence message. They think their mission works better what it is delivered peer-to-peer. Right now, they are researching how to best share that message on social media.