Students preventing violence

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Juan Castillo with his father in 2016
Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Daily Press

Deaths from gun violence continue even though it’s only the Covid-19 deaths that reach the headlines.

A 31-year-old woman died a week ago in Whittier CA after being shot:

Danielle Susan Rojas, a 31-year-old white female, died Friday, March 27, after being shot near 7647 Pickering Ave. in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s records.

Danielle was one of 524 people killed in Los Angeles County in the last twelve months.  

This total is much larger than the 78 deaths from Covid-19 reported so far in Los Angeles County (as of Thursday, April 2). 

We all need to keep up our efforts to prevent gun violence, suicide, and other forms of violence. 

Here in Santa Monica, four friends of Kathy McTaggart banded together in 2013 to set up a scholarship in her memory for violence prevention.  Kathy was a child and family therapist who worked with at-risk kids in the SM-MUSD; she died of lung cancer at age 69 although she had never smoked.

California schools are probably closed for the rest of the school year ending in June, but students are completing courses online and some will be graduating and receiving scholarships and awards. 

This year’s Katherine McTaggart Memorial Scholarship for Violence Prevention will be awarded to Samantha Nicole Castillo.  She showed interest in violence prevention by volunteering at the Virginia Avenue Park Teen Center for three summers and during the school years.  She also volunteered with Apex for Kids.  

An AYSO and club soccer player, she participated in the cheer team and pep squad during all four years at Santa Monica High School. Now as a senior coach, she helps new girls learn cheers and also teaches them how to be confident in themselves.  A graduate of the Edison Language Academy, Samantha plans to attend college and major in business administration.

Her cousin, Juan Castillo, graduated from Santa Monica High School in 2016 but was killed on  Feb. 26, 2017, in a random act of gun violence only 12 blocks from the high school.  He played on the varsity football team at Samohi.

“I have always felt unsafe,” Samantha says about her neighborhood with its stabbings, shootings, graffiti, and vandalism.  She lives near Cloverfield and Pico, just a mile from where I live, close to Santa Monica College.  

Other worthy candidates also applied for the violence prevention award.  One works on a Teen Line for suicide prevention, and another does after-school tutoring.  One young man took a conflict de-escalation course at his church.  There are many types of physical violence such as shootings, suicides, bullying, and domestic abuse.

You can join in and support student efforts toward peacemaking, conflict de-escalation, and violence prevention.  

Send your donation made out to “Samohi Scholarship Fund” with the tagline “Katherine McTaggart” to P.O. Box 5592, Santa Monica CA 90409-5592.

See also:

The Homicide Report, Los Angeles Times

Shooting in 2017 in Santa Monica

Convicted felon shot Juan Castillo





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