#ListenToME | Giving Maine teens a voice
Author: Jeffrey Schools
Published: 7:18 PM EST March 2, 2018
Updated: 7:18 PM EST March 2, 2018
LISTEN-TO-ME 9 Articles

NEWS CENTER Maine – Your Maine Connection – #ListenToMe is a school violence forum developed by NEWS CENTER Maine, airing Thursday at 7:00 PM. Our goal was to give Maine teens a voice where some may not be listening.

EXPLORE

#ListenToME | Giving Maine teens a voice

LISTEN-TO-ME
Chapter 1

WHY?

Why? It’s the right thing to do. It’s an issue our community tells us they care about and we had an opportunity to help elevate the conversation and maybe even effect change. School shootings have a direct impact on students all across the country and in our state, and we feel it’s important for students to have a voice. It’s about us being against school shootings and giving a voice to those that are in harm's way every day.

Chapter 2

OUR KIDS

We invited the group and their parents to our studios in Bangor. The students that attended our #ListenToME forum:

  • Tasha Hipple, a freshman from Casco Bay High School in Portland
  • Mason Soares, a freshman at Mount Desert Island High School
  • Wells Mundell-Wood, freshman at Bangor High School
  • Bonnie Snyder, senior at Mount Desert Island High School
  • Suzanne Hanvey, freshman at Thornton Academy
  • Moxie McBreairty, freshman at Mount Desert Island High School
  • Jefferson Lane, junior at Freeport High School
  • Rachel Carignan, junior at Mount Desert Island High School
  • Lucy Wing, junior at Freeport High School
  • Nayan Sawyer, junior at Mount Desert Island High School
  • Sage Hafenecker, senior at Waterville High School
  • Pat Callaghan and Cindy Williams moderated

► STORY: Meet the panelists

Chapter 3

ARRIVAL

It was interesting to watch the kids arrive, being tentative teens, trying to get to know a new set of peers. Some had parents stick around to watch the taping from another room. The kids immediately started exchanging social media accounts, making small talk about their hobbies and showing that pre-event nervousness you'd expect from kids about to talk about a very tough subject.

We learned pretty quickly; this was a group of smart kids who care deeply about their communities. We sent them to the studio with Pat and Cindy for a little warm-up chat as the cameras and mics were all set into place.

Back in the meeting area, the parents were in that same space of being tentative and learning a little about the people they would watch the show with. Not very many tough conversations before, just waiting for the show to begin.

Chapter 4

THE FORUM BEGINS

The first few minutes were like a sporting event where two teams were trying to feel each other out. The kids weren't sure what to say, how to say it. Pat and Cindy were getting a feel for the kids and how they would react to dealing with some tough topics.

Chapter 5

MOOD CHANGED

The mood changed when we showed the group the story of Aaron Stark. Aaron was the man that told our sister station in Denver that he, "was almost a school shooter." The room was quiet while they watched Aaron cry on camera, saying that all he needed was some love to change his life. A simple gesture of a blueberry pie stopped a deadly massacre. The story seemed to jumpstart the discussion and get the kids into conversational form.

► RELATED: 'I was almost a school shooter.'

Chapter 6

IN THEIR VOICE

We'd like to give you a snapshot, in text form, of what some of the kids had to say during the taping. The discussion was thoughtful, respectful and eye-opening on many levels.

MENTAL HEALTH

Suzanne Hanvey - "I'll post something on my Snapchat story, can someone talk to me, I'm feeling kind of down. And then no one answers me. And I feel like no one cares. And it's just an awful, awful feeling. So I could see why it would drive someone to do that because no one ever should have to feel like that."

Bonny Snyder - "I don't really want to talk about the mental health issue, because other places have mental health issues. I want to talk about the fact that here, people are getting guns legally when they have mental health issues, and they are going to a place and shooting innocent people. That is the issue to me."

Lucy Wing - "[Mental health] comes a little bit from the previous conversation about feeling isolated and being able to make connections with people and build support systems from a young age, I think is vital in not keeping people isolated."

THE NEW NORM AT SCHOOL

Rachel Carignan - "I grew up in a post-Columbine world. All of us have. Personally, my father works at the school I go to. We've had many bomb threats in the last couple years I have been attending MDI. Bomb threats to our school, district, and my dad sometimes says in the morning, 'remember, you might have to wear an extra jacket, you might have to go outside today, there might be a bomb threat.' I am thinking about it every day. I’m thinking about where I might go in case there’s a school shooting. Where I would hide if I could leave the building through one of the windows, it’s something I think of when I step into a new room."

Mason Soares - "I was homeschooled until this year, so going to high school was a very scary prospect for me. And once I started hearing about all these shootings, it was very terrifying because I was walking into an environment that I didn't understand and that I didn't know anything about. And then on top of that, I had to worry about where I was going to go if something happened."

GUN CONTROL

Rachel Carignan - "So I feel like we keep talking about the people that are shooting the guns instead of the actual guns themselves. I feel like that's kinda been the trend. This is more about guns. And if you look at our statistics for people that have handguns related to gun-related deaths, America versus England versus Japan, their numbers are drastically lower than ours, and there's an obvious correlation."

Sage Hafenecker - "I don't think we should be taking guns away from people. I think that automatic weapons are not very necessary. You don't need them; you don't need to walk around with them. You don't need to go hunting with them. Handguns, if you want a handgun in your house to protect yourself, I think that's ok. And we can't completely erase weapons from our community because there's a fear the military could come back at us. Weapons will still circulate."

ARMING TEACHERS

Bonnie Snyder - "Absolutely not! The idea of arming teachers is scarier than ... I'm sorry. No. The thought of my teacher having a gun on them, all the time, doesn't make me feel safer. It actually makes me more scared. The more guns you have in a school, the more chance there is that someone who maybe is mentally ill ... it increases the likelihood that they could get a gun."

Moxie McBreairty - "We switch classes after the first semester. I would be so nervous, not only coming into the school as a freshman, but not knowing these teachers and them not knowing you, and they have a gun on them? That would be absolutely terrifying to me. They can't even match my name to my face yet."

BEING HEARD

Jefferson Lane - "One of the biggest downers online is that older people are like why should we listen to a generation that's obsessed with taking selfies and eating Tide Pods. Well, we're the ones going through this every day. It's our lives at stake. I want to go to school and survive the day and come home afterward. We've got some ideas, just give us a chance."

Tasha Hipple - "Our generation is the generation that is going to have live with the changes that are made right now...I think it's (our) job to take action and not let the foolish leaders do nothing. It's our job to do something."

Chapter 7

THE EXHALE

Once we closed out the taping, there was a deep exhale by all of the kids in the room. Nearly 90 minutes of deep, thoughtful discussion wasn't easy on this group. But what was clear, these kids created a bond with each other. This group came together to tackle some debate many adults aren't prepared to have or hear.

We told the kids to hang for a bit while we talked to the parents. That group of parents that were tentative at the start, were hip deep in the gun control debate. Many strong, differing opinions were being thrown around the room as a group, while Zach Blanchard interviewed each parent individually. The parents' debate was lively at times.

Back in the studio with the kids, they talked about creating social media groups to keep the movement alive, exchanged phone numbers and social media accounts, all so they could all keep track of each other.

One of the most touching moments of the day was when the kids came back to the meeting room with the parents, and everyone started to applaud the group. It was evident how proud the parents were that their kids were able to speak so eloquently about a serious subject.

Chapter 8

THANKFUL

The NEWS CENTER Maine crew was so impressed with these kids. It's one thing to have the idea of having a forum with Maine kids, and thinking what COULD be; it's another thing to finish it and be proud of the outcome. These kids were spectacular, plain and simple. These kids could be our future leaders. These kids could make real change. We couldn't be more thankful to be involved in helping to give voice to a group of people most affected by school violence.

You will see more of this story over the next few days on our social media platforms, website and mobile app. All of this will lead up to our #ListenToMe special on Thursday, March 1 at 7 p.m. We hope you can take a few minutes and listen to these kids...you won't be sorry.

Chapter 9

THE FORUM AIRS

March 1st, the forum airs. Watch and read about the conversation

► RELATED | #ListenToME | The forum airs