Violence makes headlines.  Violence prevention doesn’t usually reach the front page or the television screen.

Let’s take a moment to turn away from the horror of 18-year-olds murdering innocent people in Uvalde and in Buffalo.

Instead, let’s remember the 3.7 million brave students who are graduating from high school this year in the USA, including the 700 here at Santa Monica High School.

I was deeply moved when I watched 250 of them receive awards and scholarships at the Class of 2022 Scholarship and Honors Program in Barnum Hall two weeks ago.

These 18-year-olds coped with homework and exams, Covid, online classes, and financial stress in many of their families.  Some sought help in facing stress or depression.  Teachers and counseling staff listened to their problems.

Now they will walk across the stage of SAMOHI’s Greek Amphitheatre on June 8.

I felt so proud of our Santa Monica grads. They had learned to get along with others of many races and nationalities, sitting in classrooms together and playing sports or leading cheers for their classmates.

They participated in clubs made up of Black, Asian, Latinx, White, and Indigenous students.  They worked together to do community service and made music together in band, orchestra, and choir.  

Like 60% of high school graduates nationally, these outstanding students have earned college admittance and plan to start another 4-5 years of academic work this coming fall.  

Consider two of these hard-working grads.  

Jasmine Lopez and Angelina Rivas have not only been studying for their classes but also working to prevent violence. They were chosen for this year’s Katherine McTaggart Scholarship for Violence Prevention. 

Jasmine commuted into Santa Monica from an LA neighborhood that used to be plagued with drugs, gangs, and violence. 

“The only thing that made me feel safer were the bars on all our windows,” she wrote in her application essay.

But then her family started a local Neighborhood Watch group, got the Nextdoor app, and began hosting a monthly meeting in their house.  They targeted a corner shop that appeared to be selling drugs.

“We called the police so much and put that corner shop on their radar,” Jasmine recalls.  “Sure enough, it was a human trafficking shop that laundered money as well as a warehouse for illegal drugs.” 

After a SWAT raid, the owner was arrested, the shop was sold, and the neighborhood became calm and safe.

At SAMOHI, Jasmine became active in student government, cheerleading, and the Latinx Leaders Club (president during her senior year).

When she was presented with an award for leadership in student government, another student leader described her as “not afraid to speak her opinion.”  She plans to attend Mount St. Mary’s University in Brentwood, majoring in business. 

Angelina Rivas is the other winner of this year’s scholarship for violence prevention.  She lives in the Pico neighborhood of Santa Monica.  Both she and Jasmine held part-time jobs during three of their four years of high school.  

Angelina received the McTaggart scholarship because of her work to combat domestic abuse and teen dating violence.  She has been a peer leader for Margaret’s Place, an intervention program to provide mental health services for students who have been impacted by violence in their home, school, or community. 

She helped coordinate campus organizations on teen violence, sexual assault awareness, and mental health awareness.  She handled publicity, making flyers, announcements, and wristbands.

Angelina will be attending Stanford University, and she wants to work for the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. 

Have you found ways to counteract the violence we are hearing about so much in the news?

Perhaps you are focusing on gun control or better understanding among people of various races, but don’t forget the graduates bravely moving on to build the future.

One small way to help locally is to contribute to the Katherine McTaggart Scholarship for Violence Prevention at Santa Monica High School.

Kathy was a licensed therapist who worked with at-risk teens and their families for 16 years as a school-community partnership coordinator in the Santa Monica – Malibu School District.  When she died of lung cancer in 2012, her friends and co-workers set up this scholarship.

To continue her work and help students like Jasmine and Angelina, send your check to: Santa Monica Education Foundation, c/o SAMOHI Scholarships,1645 – 16th Street, Santa Monica CA 90404.  Make it payable to SAMOHI Scholarship Fund, specifying McTaggart Violence Prevention.

Thank you for joining with us to support nonviolent solutions to today’s problems.

Anne Linstatter, Santa Monica