Hundreds of teenagers in Montgomery County are teaming up to keep themselves and others safe. They spent Thursday evening brainstorming on ways to stop bullying, violence and curb underage drinking.
The teenagers involved say they’ve witnessed too many problems in their neighborhoods and it's time county leaders listen to them.
The high schoolers know they can’t end crime overnight, but they hope speaking out can make a difference.
“I know that if you just walk past it, you're doing nothing to help,” said Winston Churchill High School sophomore Jimmy Schwartzman.
Schwartzman, 16, joined dozens of other students Thursday night to share concerns with each other and county leaders.
“Teens in Montgomery County, we feel like we're not actually heard…events like this speak-out give us an opportunity to come forth and say what issues we have with the county,” said Poolesville High School freshman Mona-Mae Juwillie.
“A lot of my friends have been beaten up just walking down the street minding their own business,” said Andrea Culley, 19.
Culley led a small group brainstorming suggestions for stomping out violence.
“Starting programs to teach people about how to handle anger and how to interact with each other...conflict-resolution. That sort of thing. Also, we were thinking more security might help. Having more cameras or more security guards in schools and around neighborhoods,” Culley said.
The county's recreation director says these conversations also help him get ideas.
“What we hear often is that youth need more positive, safe places to go, particularly on weekend evenings,”said Montgomery County Recreation Director Gabriel Albornoz.
County leaders will review all the teens suggestions, continue meeting with their youth advisory committee and figure out what issues they can address first.
Last year the teens managed to persuade county leaders to continue "free rides" for students taking the bus. Students worried they would have no way of getting to school without the program and didn't feel walking was a safe option.