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Charlotte Area

Hawthorne students mourn violent deaths, fight back


Students at Charlotte's Hawthorne High held a memorial service Thursday afternoon to honor 15-year old Tiffany Wright who was shot at her school bus stop on Monday and Ja'Ron McGill who died in August. But it was more than a memorial service. It was a call to action for the students. With only 250 students, Hawthorne High is small enough to make every loss feel like a death in the family. And the Hawthorne family has dealt with a lot of loss in the last two years. Four of their classmates have been murdered. "I've been crying since Monday, says Brittany Davis, sighing. "Tears just, I don't think I can cry anymore." Monday was the day Brittany Davis' classmate Tiffany Wright was shot. They took U.S. History together and Brittany says Tiffany was always on her to stop texting in class and pay attention. Brittany sounds a little defeated when she talks about Tiffany's death, because she's been through this before. She lost two of her other close friends in random violence during the last year. And just last month, another Hawthorne student - senior Ja'Ron McGill was shot. 16-year old Tamia Corpening says the whole school is shaken. "People be like trying to make it seem like it's a curse," says Corpening. "But it's life. A lot of people come here that live on the wrong side of town. So I mean it's being at the right place at the wrong time." Hawthorne High draws students from across the county who are looking for smaller classes or flexible schedules to get their education back on track. The majority of them are black and come from low-income families. Nearly half of the students at Hawthorne are pregnant or young mothers enrolled in the district's only program to help teen parents finish school. Hawthorne Principal Tracey Pickard says it's true that violence is part of life for many of her students. But with Tiffany's death this week, something clicked. "Probably Monday afternoon, Tuesday, I had a couple of students write me letters. I had a couple of students come up and say Mrs. Pickard we're tired. We're tired of losing our peers and we want to do something. Why does it keep happening? We want to do something," says Pickard. First they held a memorial and released purple balloons to signify a commitment to end violence in their lives. Now they're starting the school's first chapter of a national initiative called national movement called "SAVE" or "Students Against Violence Everywhere."