Recent forum discussed gun violence and its impact on Philadelphia schools

May 4, 2022

Gun violence in Philadelphia is at historic levels, cutting into the mental health of communities and classrooms alike.

Two Philly-area high school students recently shared their personal experiences with more than 100 attendees during a virtual panel sponsored by Penn GSE's Office of School & Community Engagement. The event was hosted by Chalkbeat Philadelphia and Resolve Philly.

The panel brought together students like Erin Gil-Wilson and Armando Orte for a moderated discussion with experts and school leaders about the effect community trauma has on learning. The group also discussed how schools can best allocate critical resources and what measures could be implemented to make immediate, measurable differences.

“This event was very important in bringing together youth, educators, School District safety personnel, and community mental health responders in a frank and open conversation about how gun violence affects students and what needs to be done. We need to listen to students and work together to build the resources they need to help them be resilient in the face of such devastation in our communities. And we need to bring all of our collective resources to bear to stop the escalation of loss in Philadelphia,” said Caroline L. Watts, Ed.D., director of the Penn GSE Office of School and Community Engagement. “Right now there is no more critical educational issue in our city than keeping our children and youth safe so they can learn, grow, and become the village we need.”


  • Le'Yondo Dunn, principal of Mastery Simon Gratz High School
  • Lisa Christian, Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia’s director of counseling services
  • Selina Carrera, educator at Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center
  • Kevin Bethel, chief of safety for Philly schools
  • Erin Gil-Wilson, junior at Carver Engineering and Science High School and co-executive director of advocacy for UrbEd Advocates
  • Armando Orte, rising senior at Northeast High School and student representative on the Philadelphia school board

Chalkbeat's Philadelphia bureau chief, Johann Calhoun, moderated.

Read more about the discussion, as well as all of Chalkbeat’s ongoing coverage about rising gun violence and its impact, at Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Mental health resources for students, educators and parents

  • Professional counseling: The Anti-Violence Partnership offers free, professional counseling to adult and child co-victims of homicide and those who have been traumatized by other forms of violence. These services are provided at their offices in the Art Museum area and in West Philadelphia. Fill out this form to learn more or call 215-567-6776.
  • Gun violence resource guide: Dozens of organizations across Philadelphia are dedicated to helping those affected by gun violence. Up the Block has a searchable guide, in Spanish and English, available online. This project was created and is maintained by The Trace, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to covering gun violence.
  • Mentorship programs: Philadelphia has dozens of programs seeking to provide supportive mentorship environments for youth. Learn more about the programs and how to get in touch with organizers from the Fun Times.
  • For emergencies: Contact the Philadelphia Mobile Emergency Team at 215-685-6440, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or for all other emergencies, call 911.
Source: Chalkbeat Philadelphia