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Banding Together to Stop Gun Violence

 With the support of a teacher, students at Suncoast High School in Florida wrote and recorded a CD of songs urging an end to gun violence. Now the students want schools and radio stations across the U.S. to play the title track March 15 in a show of solidarity. Included: How your school can join the fight against gun violence.

A Florida community was dismayed after a rash of street shootings a few months ago, and after a 3-year-old boy died in a random shooting, local teens decided they needed to help put an end to senseless killings. Now these students are calling on schools and radio stations across the U.S. to join them in calling for an end to gun violence.

With encouragement and assistance of teacher Aldric Marshall, eight students from Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach, Florida, formed a group called Alter8tion and wrote and recorded songs for a CD called "Touch Your Mind."

The students are asking schools and radio stations across the U.S. to join their school in playing the album's title track at noon on March 15, to show solidarity against gun violence. The song and album can be purchased on the group's Web site.


Help Stop Gun Violence

Click Alter8tion to buy the CD "Touch Your Mind" and learn more about the impact of gun violence on U.S. youth.

About ten days before the event, 324 other schools in Suncoast's district, School District of Palm Beach County, had agreed to play "Touch Your Mind" on March 15. They will be joined by 60 school districts and 363 radio stations across the U.S., including Radio One, one of the country's largest radio networks.

"We wanted to get enough exposure," Marshall told Education World. "So far the response has been tremendous. Everyone has embraced the song and the effort of the students. I just love that students are getting involved. It speaks volumes."

Marshall, who works in Suncoast's behavior intervention program, planted the idea of recording a CD with some students by saying that he thought music could be a good way to spread the anti-violence message.

"The shootings went on day after day for a period of time," he said. "The problem is universal; it's not going to go away. We wanted to get the message out globally.

"I suggested to some of the students that they use their talents to rap songs. "I told them if they got serious, I would take it to a studio and as far as it could go."

After students finished the album, Marshall, who has no experience as a music producer, said he just starting making phone calls until he found someone to do it. "It was just something that was needed," he said. "People just didn't know how to start [to combat gun violence.] This way we reach people on a grander scale." Some of the proceeds from CD sales will go toward efforts to end gun violence.

Suncoast's principal, Dr. Gloria Crutchfield, praised the students and Marshall. "I am very impressed, and I think the idea that Mr. Marshall and his students came up with is timely, will have an impact, and absolutely can make a difference in the lives of young people."


Alter8tion is made up of seven boys and one girl, in grades 10 to 12, from a mix of ethnic backgrounds. One students raps in Spanish on the album, Marshall said.

"It all started when Mr. Marshall came to me saying he wanted to do something positive with music," said Shaydrian, 16, a junior who is a member of Alter8tion. "He knew I was a rapper, and I feel strongly about the message. This is not about money or fame, it's about the effect on other people."

The rash of shootings, Shaydrian said, made him feel like he couldn't walk the streets. "And then to have a little kid get shot really pushed me [to do something.]"

Students also are planning to record another CD of inspirational music, about topics such as education, Shaydrian added.


Alter8tion's Web site also includes statistics about the effect of gun violence on youths, including 2002 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 2,867 U.S. children died from gun violence in 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That breaks down to about one child dying every three hours, and nearly eight children dying every day.

Alter8tion members are acting in their own way on President Bush's message of No Child Left Behind, Marshall added. "They don't want children left behind in the streets."

Alter8tion also is planning to record another CD, this one featuring inspirational music, about topics such as education, according to Shaydrian.

The experience of preparing and promoting "Touch Your Mind" has contributed to students' social awareness, added Marshall. "They are learning that we can't sit back and hope and pray that someone will get involved with something we all should be involved with. I tell them this [project] is not about them, it's about helping others."