Formed in 1974, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) is the oldest, largest and most active statewide organization dedicated to the reduction of death and injury caused by the easy accessibility to firearms in our society. ICHV works on a variety of fronts to educate, raise public awareness, and build coalitions that enact change in laws and behavior.
The Student Voices Program was founded in 1996 as an essay, poetry and art contest open to students in first through twelfth grade. Even though the Student Voices Program has evolved into much more than this yearly project, the contest continues to be a major component of the program. The contest provides children with a forum to have their experiences and views on the issue of gun violence heard.
The Student Voices Program also offers interactive workshops and presentations by ICHV staff on various topics related to the issue of gun violence, including bullying, gangs, the causes of violence, and the impact of guns and violence on individuals and communities.
Over the past few years, the Student Voices Program has expanded by adding a leadership and organizing training component to the program: the Student Voices Activist Institute. Through the Student Voices Activist Institute, ICHV provides training and leadership skills to students to help them become leaders in anti-violence efforts in their schools and communities. The 16-week long Activist Institute takes place in a classroom setting for 90 minutes each week. During this time lessons on gun violence, community, activism, messaging, and civic engagement are integrated into the classroom as students learn how to change the reality of gun violence, as well as how to take action on any issue impacting their community. Students then work together, under the guidance of ICHV staff, to develop a school-wide action campaign. The Activist Institute is tailored toward high school and middle school aged youth, an age when prevention programing is most effective.
The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence needs your help to support the Student Voices program in order to give children a forum to have their experiences and views on the issue of gun violence heard.