Best Friends Earn Grant to Help Improve Community’s Safety

As anyone involved with Colorado College knows, El Paso County is a beautiful place to live. But it’s also home to two ugly statistics: Historically, the county leads the state in the number of suicides and in suicides involving firearms, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Two CC students, Maddi Schink ’23 and Fer Juarez Duran Jr. ’23, have a plan to help combat that. A $10,000 grant from the Davis Projects for Peace program will support their work.

Middlebury College in Vermont administers the worldwide program, which awards the grants annually to 100 or more students identified as “peacebuilders and changemakers.”

Schink and Juarez Duran, who are best friends, will use the funds to present free firearm safety workshops and a media campaign designed for parents who own guns.

“This project is not an attempt to infringe upon anyone’s rights,” Juarez Duran says. “As a college student, there is a bright and short-lived impact I get to have on my host community.

“Before I graduate, I want to make sure that I leave Colorado Springs and El Paso County a safer place. … Part of this means asking folks to rethink their relationships with firearms around the house.”

The students will work with local experts and firearm owners to promote awareness about storing firearms safely, thereby limiting access. One study they cite found that 20 percent of Colorado high school students have access to firearms.

Suicide has been called “a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and statistics show that guns are nearly 90 percent lethal in suicide attempts, far more than any other method.

“Fer and I feel that this project is important to generate a conversation in our community about the importance of safe storage and responsible gun ownership so that we can all work together to save lives,” Schink says.

This summer, they’ll host six free two-hour firearm safety workshops throughout El Paso County and present a social media campaign. They’re collaborating with Colorado Ceasefire, the state-wide gun violence prevention organization, Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention, and the Suicide Prevention Collaborative of El Paso County. Juarez Duran and Schink also will reach out to parents in the county’s nine school districts, faith communities, and patrons of gun shows and shooting ranges.

The grant will pay for venue rental, catering, firearm safes, advertising, and speakers’ fees.

Schink, an environmental studies major, has worked with the school’s Collaborative for Community Engagement, giving her experience with best practices, working with community partners, and assessing community strengths and weaknesses. Juarez Duran, an astrobiology major, says his public speaking and digital campaign classes will help him in the effort.

“I know that this project will be a lot of hard work, but that it will be well worth it because we will be collaborating with members of our community to prevent suicide and promote firearm safe storage, both of which are topics that are very close to my heart,” Schink says.

Report an issue - Last updated: 07/21/2022