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'Silent Screams': Students feel unheard on gun violence and other issues

Silent Screams 3.PNG
Jackie McGriff
Kate Robinson, 16, posing for the project "Silent Screams," expresses her outrage over continued gun violence in the United States.

In addition to catching up with her classmates and meeting her new teachers, Kate Robinson expects to do something else when she walks into her classrooms at Irondequoit High School next month.

"Look for a hiding place or an escape route in case of a school shooting," Robinson said.

Robinson, who is starting her junior year, said she tends to be more anxious about this than the average person.

"But I know that a lot of my friends feel the same way," she said. "That's always in the back of their heads."

Acknowledging that New York has enacted stricter gun control laws than many other states, Robinson still worries about what could happen. She also feels that people her age aren't heard by elected officials and policymakers on the issue of gun violence.

Silent Screams 1.PNG
Jackie McGriff
Sixteen-year-old Kate Robinson of Irondequoit poses for the project "Silent Screams." Her message refers to the mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14, 2022, in which 10 Black people were killed by a white gunman.

"It's really frustrating because the young people are the people who are experiencing hiding under desks in school, and it feels like we're not being heard because nothing is changing," Robinson said, noting that more than 3,600 mass shootings have taken place in the U.S. since the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.

At the time, many people reasoned that the shock of the tragedy in which 26 people, including 20 6- and 7-year-old children, were murdered, would spur Congress to restrict firearms.

This summer, Robinson approached photographer Jackie McGriff, seeking a way to channel her frustration into positive action. Together, they created "Silent Screams," a series of images featuring Robinson and several of her classmates expressing their perceived silencing on issues ranging from gun control to abortion.

"(They think about) things I was not thinking about at their age," McGriff said. "I think, to some extent, they've had to, just because of the state of things."

Voter turnout is typically low for young voters, but Robison said she made sure she was preregistered with the Board of Elections.

"I've been thinking about when I'm going to be able to vote since I was in eighth grade," she said. "I don't really understand why if you're saying you want things to change you wouldn't go and vote for people who are going to bring those changes."

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.