Thumbs up to the young students who are making up the first class of the Lynchburg Freedom School for their efforts earlier this week to focus the community’s attention on the prevention of gun violence.
The Freedom School, which is housed at Randolph College and sponsored by The Listening, a community advocacy organization, has its roots in the Civil Rights era in the South when many localities closed their segregated school systems entirely rather than integrate. Freedom Schools sprang up to fill the gap. Today, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit is recreating the schools in communities across America as summer enrichment programs to encourage literacy and student empowerment. The Lynchburg Freedom School is only the second in the state.
As part of their activities focused on the National Day of Social Action, the 50 or so students decided among themselves what social issue they wanted to focus on, learn more about and develop strategies on how to bring about change in their community. The issue they selected was gun violence, made especially poignant following the fatal shooting in May of E.C. Glass High School student Dre’yon Browley.
According to Freedom School site coordinator Rox Cruz, the Browley shooting, as well as others that had affected the lives of many of the students and their families, was something they felt they had to speak out on.
The students researched the topic and the issues surrounding gun violence and the proliferation of guns in American society and, on Wednesday, put their classwork into action in real life, staging an informational march up Rivermont Avenue complete with protest posters and chants and slogans they’d written themselves.
Involved, aware, educated and active young citizens — what more could you want in America today? Good going, guys.
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Thumbs up for the life of the late Pierre Guillermin, who died Tuesday in at his home in Lynchburg at the age of 82.
Guillermin was one of the co-founders, along with the late Jerry Falwell Sr., of what is now Liberty University, one of the largest Christian institutions of higher education in the country.
The school was founded in 1971 with just 154 students; today, LU enrolls more than 15,000 residential students and 100,000 online students. It is one of the major economic forces in Lynchburg and Central Virginia.
For the first 26 years of its existence, Guillermin served as president, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the school, while Falwell Sr. served as chancellor and LU’s public face.
In retirement, Guillermin dialed back his activities a bit, serving on many local boards and as an elder at Rivermont Evangelical Presbyterian Church, but he was never one to seek the spotlight. The Hill City is more than a little empty now that he’s no longer in our midst.