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News Literacy Project: Warren Central students coping with loss

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Posted at 5:30 AM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 22:54:07-05

RTV6 and our parent company The E.W. Scripps Company are partnering with local schools and the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan national education nonprofit, to help the next generation of news consumers discern credible information from misinformation in today's media. As a part of that partnership we traveled to local high schools to work with journalism students to co-produce a news story from start to finish on a topic of importance for that particular community.

By: Brad Batista, Zoe Fisher, Will Matchett

INDIANAPOLIS — Students at Warren Central High School are learning to cope with losing friends and classmates to violence and to tragedy.

"He was killed from a senseless act of gun violence," Tyler Hopkins, a senior at WCHS, said. "I remember just waking up to the bad news. My mom rushed in and told me that Dijon had got shot. It was another young person named Angel who was killed and I feel like it traumatized the entire Warren Central as a school and those people were like family to me, I guess you could say.

Hopkins is a senior now, but he will never forget a weekend in May 2017 when 17-year-old Angel Meja-Alfaro was killed and 18-year-old football standout Dijon Anderson was critically injured. Anderson eventually died.

Teachers like Courtney Burchett became a support system for students.

Burchett, along with other teachers, students, counselors and administrators helped each other cope.

"And our services were amazing," Burchett said. "They provided support dogs and just any outlet of grief that the kids needed was provided."

The dogs, like Lainey, help students cope with grief, Hopkins said.

While dogs do help some people, some students say they could use some extra support. They say they need ongoing support even beyond times of tragedy.

"I feel like if they just keep it consistent and not just stop for a short term of time, I feel it could help a lot of people mentally," Hopkins said.

Burchett says adults sometimes feel comfortable sharing their problems.

The stress of balancing school work, sports, extracurriculars, friends and family is tough enough without having to process the deaths of their classmates, students say.

"We'll never forget what happened that May and we can just keep preaching to kids that you gotta make sure that you listen to your parents, make those right decisions and your life can really just change in an instant," Burchett said. "But our educators here are so invested in our kids, it's like losing a member of their family. Because that's how tight-knit this community is."

Since Anderson and Dijon's deaths, their friend, Brandon Warren, founded We Live Inc., a youth led organization focused on reducing teen violence at schools.