Wichita community takes a ‘S.T.A.N.D’ against teen gun violence

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — First Pentecostal Church’s Teen Outreach program aims to raise awareness of the toll violence has on Wichita’s youth. They hosted a S.T.A.N.D. (Standing Together and Not Defeated) Up Rally on Saturday.

Through song, dance, and prayer, Zena Hardyway wanted to bring the city together to fight gun violence taking the lives of Wichita teens. She said not doing anything now is not an option. Teen Outreach hopes to uplift Wichita youth and encourage them to find a safe space to express their frustration.  

“It’s hard for them, especially the girls I met,” Chayna Hardyway, a Teen Outreach teacher, said. “I can create a relationship with the girls and try to teach them or help them create goals for themselves for the future so they don’t get caught up in the mess as it comes.”

Organizers of the S.T.A.N.D. Up Rally said that changed this week, and they’re grateful to be part of several community organizations hosting anti-gun violence events all week. 

“These kids are getting gunned down, hanging out with the wrong friends, being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Jessie Cornwell, a Teen Outreach advisor, said. “These are unintended victims.” 

Zena Hardaway is the director of Teen Outreach. She wants Wichita youth to see there are more solutions to the problems life throws them. 

“Know that there’s someone that you can get a hold of that will stand with you, that will pray with you, that will lead you to the right place to help you,” Hardyway said. 

She urges everyone from the church to the school system to give Wichita teens another path. 

“We have tables over there that have all kinds of outreach things that they can grab a hold of,” Hardyway said. “When they leave today, there’s phone numbers, contacts. There’s all kinds of things they can grab ahold of.” 

Cornwell hopes today’s event will unite the city and asks the community to do more than blame each other. 

“When we stop blaming each other and start praying for each other, I think real conversations can come from that,” Cornwell said. “There is somebody that cares about you, and we’re here with open arms.” 

Organizers said there is another rally on Sunday at Grove Park at 2 p.m.

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