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APS and VIP receive $950,000 grant to create pilot program designed to help prevent school and gun violence

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Gino Gutierrez
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KSFR News
Acting Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael speaks to the media Tuesday morning

Three months and 15 days after 14-year-old Marcos Trejo shot and killed 16-year old Andrew Burson just outside of West Mesa High School’s campus, city and community leaders gathered Tuesday morning on the steps of school to announce a $950,000 grant from the W.K Kellogg Foundation.

This grant will be put towards helping break the cycle of violence APS students experience by creating an 18-month pilot program at West Mesa High School. Violence Intervention Program Manager Gerri Bachicha explained that this grant is aimed at helping prevent the next school shooting.

“The school-based violence intervention program was developed in conjunction with the West Mesa staff to help bridge the gaps in systems and help students who are engaging in the cycles of violence with resources. The program includes on campus peer-to-peer support through community based efforts and it includes intensive long-term case management support for those at risk of becoming engaged in the cycles of violence and gun violence.”

According to the gunviolencearchieve.org, there have already been 48 total incidents of gun violence in Albuquerque in 2022 alone as of June 2nd, when the last one was archived.

In response to the shooting of Andrew Burson, Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Scott Elder said the district has overhauled their on-campus security. Adding cameras, additional fencing, Ring systems at school entrances, and changing locks. But ultimately Elder said the solution comes down to intervention in the lives of students.

“Gun violence is not a school problem, it’s a community problem and this is a community solution to this problem. I’m deeply appreciative of the people behind me and their willingness to step up and to support our staff and our students in these trying times,” said Elder.

West Mesa Principal Michele Torres said the invention program will help the district think outside the box and begin to be proactive in preventing school and gun violence, instead of reactive.

“Our ultimate goal is to keep our campuses safe for all of us, students and staff, Torres said. “Through the VIP program, we are taking the first steps in bringing our school, students, educators, and community together to create a viable solution for everyone. We are very appreciative of this opportunity.”

Officials hope the success of this pilot program will allow it to be implemented at other schools around the district.

Gino Gutierrez was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A lifelong resident of New Mexico, Gino found interest in broadcasting after falling in love with sports and sports broadcasting. He attended the University of New Mexico, where he majored in mass media journalism. While at UNM, he worked the New Mexico Daily Lobo, serving as both sports and managing editor. He can also be heard providing play-by-play commentary for the Lobo Hockey Network.