ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Every time deputies race over to Pine Hills late at night, Francesse Pierre said she runs through a list of friends and community members who may have been involved.
“We’re just thinking, ‘Do we know who was there? What happened? Are we safe now?’” she said. “We’ve seen mothers just going to get food for their children getting hurt, or we’ve seen teenagers just going to get some gas for their parents’ car.”
Pierre was one of two young women, both seniors in high school, who sat down with WFTV to speak about the latest round of violence in Pine Hills, the rising youth violence overall and the mental health of her generation.
See Francesse’s full interview in the video below:
After big crime events, police, community activists, political leaders and parents have their say. Rarely are teenagers offered a platform.
Pierre used her opportunity to self-critique, saying some of her classmates were lost and failed to recover from years of disruption the pandemic threw their way.
She also criticized the adults of the community, both parents who did not properly raise their kids to understand right from wrong, but also others around them who she said refuse to adapt.
“I feel like every time when something happens, they’re like, ‘Well, back in my day.’ It’s not your day anymore!” she said. “I think adults have to get into the habit of [saying], ‘Hey, can I talk to you without me interrogating you?’”
The other teenager, Gabriyel LeMaine, also said the community was lacking.
“We’ve got to change for the better,” she insisted. “Kids at school, they come crying because of these things impacting them.”
See Gabriyel’s full interview in the video below:
LeMaine said she gets a hurt feeling every time she goes to school and hear her community was on the news again. She wished for more security so she was able to grow up without worrying.
However, she also said the right programs and opportunities to keep kids off the streets were already in place, including Future Leaders United, which both young women were involved in, describing the leadership skills they’ve learned that would help them for the rest of their lives.
The disconnect, LeMaine explained, was that the teens who needed those programs most weren’t able – or were unwilling – to find them.
“They are opportunities for them,” she said. “Some of them don’t have the resources to find these areas, and that’s why we need to help them.”
Pierre brought the conversation back to the communication issues between parents and their teenagers. She said sometimes teenagers need to speak out more, but sometimes their voices get drowned out.
“Sometimes, students speak their mind but then it’s like, oh, you’re young. You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “Sometimes students don’t speak their minds and parents are like, ‘I wish you had told me this before it boiled over.’”
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