Elizabeth Charash, a member of the class of 2018, is a student leader on the poignant, personal and epidemic issue of gun violence prevention. Elizabeth has a triple major in history, human rights and public policy. These three intersect for her activism work in gun violence prevention. She knows the legislative system through her internship work with Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty. She has actively lobbied in Washington DC and throughout Connecticut as a member of the Newtown Action Alliance. She knows that gun violence prevention is multifaceted and in her quest to examine the issue holistically, she is currently in South Africa working with Cease Fire and understanding the complexities of social conditions. In Fall 2016, Elizabeth will start the UConn Against Gun Violence organization rallying UConn students to address this issue in their home communities. Elizabeth is the UConn student we desire...one who identifies and issue, learns all that there is to learn about the issue and then takes action to address the issue head on. She knows how to use her sources of power to effect change and inspires others to get involved.
It was a little over three years ago that the gun violence epidemic was brought to my doorstep when the shooting of 20 five to six year olds and six educators occurred five miles from my high school at Sandy Hook Elementary. I was then made aware of the gun violence tragedies that happened not just in Aurora five months prior, but every night on the streets of Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, a short drive from my house. Following some advice, I applied and was awarded a UConn IDEA grant to examine why there are differences in urban and suburban gun violence prevention organizations. I will use this research to help shape the gun violence prevention organization I am starting at UConn this coming fall. UConn Against Gun Violence will focus on educating students of all different backgrounds on the issue of gun violence from a holistic approach, looking at gun safety, active shooter trainings and mental health. Currently, I am in Cape Town , South Africa examining the issues that cause gang violence through the Cease Fire program, which sets out to end gun violence through mediation, community involvement and rehabilitation. We can all educate each other to end this epidemic of violence.