In March I invited my good friend Shawn Venson to speak to the students at Mead School in Ansonia,Connecticut, regarding youth and gun violence and making right choices in life. I thought it would be the right time to have a presentation with the current climate and issues surrounding the Trayvon Martin tragedy. The Trayvon issue has been very polarizing and controversial because it has raised issues of racial profiling, judicial double standards and historically omnipresent racism. Regardless of that debate, I was compelled to bring light to similar unfortunate circumstances that have taken place right in my home town. The unfortunate events have made me pause and think, “what if” it never happened and they were alive.  What could’ve been their potential or future opportunities? “What if” they had within them a ground breaking innovation or contribution that could’ve changed their family status, community or world? What if…..

trayvon martin

 In 2011 there were separate tragic and unsolved murders of two young men, Daryl Venson and Isaiah Hernandez due to gun violence. It has been reported that the Ansonia Police Department is aggressively investigating the murders but has not been able to get any new leads. Unfortunately, our community has not reacted with a sense of urgency with regards to having grassroots discussions that would involve youth violence, racism, drug and alcohol abuse, gun and domestic violence. It seems that those underlying issues are swept under the rug and we fail to have the backbone to really analyze those pervasive problems. The only true community reaction to the murders was initiated by Mr. Venson when he organized a rally in response to his son’s murder. Click here for more details.

Each year most schools in Connecticut will do a gun safety pledge, acknowledge red ribbon week to rally against drugs and alcohol. In Ansonia, life skills and health teachers provide students with lessons on healthy choices and police officers come in and provide fifth grade students with the D.A.R.E. curriculum regarding drugs. High Schools attempt to step up their game by sponsoring after prom activities and drunk driving accident reenactment scenes provided by the State Police. Schools do their best to offer students with substance prevention but unfortunately, students often emulate what they see at home, with their peers and in the streets. It is an uphill battle that will plague every community until we all really make some personal changes as adults.

 I’m proud to say that my friend Shawn Venson did a phenomenal job talking to the 610 students. He was able to captivate them with his personal experiences and the loss of his son and how violence, wrong choices and guns can lead to horrifying consequences.

This is an excerpt from a story written by Jodie Mozdzer for the Valley Independent Sentinel. Mr. Venson described Daryl as a “regular kid” who played youth football. He was killed when he was 25. “I lost my son to somebody who shot him,” Venson told the students. “I’ve never seen my son again. Do you know how hard it would be for your parents if one day you never come home and they never see you again?” Venson spoke to the Mead students about close calls he had with guns in his youth and urged them to never touch a gun. “No matter where you guys are, and no matter how old you get, guns are no good,” Venson said. Venson urged students to be aware of situations they end up in, and to seek help from their teachers if they need advice or help. “If you mess up one time, and make a bad decision, it can change your life for a long time,” Venson said.

During the entire presentation Trayvon Martin’s name was never mentioned. It was intentionally done because it would have taken away from the main focus on Daryl and Isaiah.  Besides, the topic is a political hot potato and I’m uncertain if the town is really ready to take on the national debate or face the true demons and issues that surround some of the tragedies that have taken place.  

Shawn Venson’s words of anguish and hope resonate in my mind just like the repetitive news of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It also makes me think about Daryl, Isaiah and other young men who have senselessly lost their lives. They lost the promise of what the future can bring and have left a void of unfulfilled potential that was caused by their early death. But it also makes me think about the future of my students and the inspiring message of hope that encouraged them to make right choices, which were spoken by Mr. Venson. More importantly, it makes me think about my own son Terri Jr., who is a 21-year-old college student studying to be an Occupational Therapist. I pray day and night that my son is safe and able to fulfill his dreams, live his life, and not become a tragic statistic or a ….what if.

By: Terri Goldson, Sr.

Terri Goldson, Jr. pursuing a dream!