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After School Matters and Project Unloaded Partner to Engage Hundreds of Teens to Leverage Social Media to Fight Gun Violence

The Week-Long Program Teaches Teens How Guns Make Them Less Safe and Empowers  Teens to Develop Creative Content to Combat Gun Violence

CHICAGOProject Unloaded, an organization working to reduce gun violence through cultural campaigns, announced a new partnership with After School Matters to educate hundreds of Chicago teens on the risks of having guns through a Teen Table Talk and task them with developing creative content to combat gun violence. As part of the program, students use their creative expressions, such as poetry, art and even thoughtful social media posts or hashtags, to explore how they can change gun culture in their communities. 

“When it comes to changing culture and getting a message out, no one is better equipped than  teens,” said Nina Vinik, founder and executive director of Project Unloaded. “Teens know that their communities would be safer with fewer guns, but they may not know how their voices could help make that vision a reality. By training them on the facts of gun violence and challenging them to use their creative skills to spread the message, we can start to finally chip away at the myths that drive young people to get a gun.”

Research shows that teens and young adults are forming opinions and making decisions about guns, and most believe the myth that a gun will make them safer. The facts, however, tell a different story: Places with more guns have more gun violence and people with guns are more likely to be shot – not less.

“We are proud to partner with Project Unloaded, encouraging our teens to use their voices and educate others on the facts around gun violence in a creative way,” said Mary Ellen Caron, After School Matters CEO. “Who better to help change hearts and minds than our young people who are the next generation of advocates and changemakers.”

Students will receive a stipend for their participation in the program. This initiative follows a 6-week course for teens that Project Unloaded ran in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, which culminated in a pitch presentation in front of a panel of well-known Chicagoans, including Mayor Brandon Johnson, and hundreds of their peers. In addition to community partner programming, Project Unloaded runs large-scale social media advertising campaigns, including its signature SNUG (Safer Not Using Guns) campaign, which has reached more than 3 million young people in under two years through influencer and advertising content on sites like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram. 

As part of the partnership with After School Matters, students will be asked to develop creative responses to prompts about gun violence where they live, which may then be used in Project Unloaded’s upcoming campaign that’s specifically designed for teens in communities with elevated rates of gun violence, including Chicago and other cities.

Nationally, gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. And according to research from Project Unloaded, half of young people worry about being shot weekly or more often. Among Black and Latino young people, more than 60% have personal experience with gun violence or know someone who has. Black and Latino teens were also far less likely to feel safe in school than white teens, demonstrating once more how the impact of gun violence is felt everywhere, but not equally, for young people.


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