SAN ANTONIO — When Raven takes a stroll around her East San Antonio neighborhood with a Canon DSLR dangling from her shoulder, it means she’s on a mission to reclaim her story.
One of the first stops was at her school, Booker T. Washington Elementary School.
“There’s a bullet inside the window, and so we are taking pictures of that because it will present that there was a shooting, which also means gun violence is happening,” Raven said.
She and her classmates are a part of a group called Light Catchers Society, which has a statement.
“We are the Light Catchers. We document our world to honor our community. We make our neighborhood better one photo at a time,” Raven and her classmates read collectively. “To keep our community intact, to keep it real, we shift perspectives from a negative to a positive...we live here, we are the East Side.”
Their teacher, Francisco Cortes, started this program years ago in the heart of the East Side, which is a neighborhood plagued by gentrification, poverty and violence.
“When you understand the stories of your neighborhood and your community, you are less likely to also harm your neighbor,” Cortes said.
Cortes gives his students the power to select what issues they tackle — this year, they chose gun violence.
Raven explained what that meant to her.
“I learned that being used to gun violence isn’t very good. It isn’t healthy at all,” Raven said.
She recently captured a photo of a woman involved with Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization that wants gun safety measures. It’s an issue felt heavily in San Antonio.
“Obviously, it’s been on the rise. Not just on the East Side, West Side, Southside — pretty much most parts of town,” Cortes said.
It happens even in public places like North Star Mall where one man was shot and killed while getting a haircut. Cortes was there purchasing shoes at Footlocker when it happened and filmed a video of people running frantically. This was two days after another man was shot at a soccer game in San Antonio.
“It’s going to affect you,” Raven said.
This has been their reality for as long as they can remember. The Light Catchers also learned how to use tourniquets in case they need to save someone who is bleeding out.
One of the Light Catchers, Santi, believes it’s necessary to learn this.
“We can at least save a life from gun violence or any situation,” Santi said.
Spectrum News asked Santi and his classmate Santo why children should be having these heavy discussions.
"It’s because there’s too much violence here. One day I might get shot, killed or stabbed," Santo answered.
The photos and interviews will be in a photography show put on by these 11-year-olds.
“It helps adults see that stuff is going wrong and kids can help,” Santi said.
It's proof, Raven says, that kids are paying attention.
“Eventually you will get to a point where you start realizing how gun violence is affecting people, so you should at least start caring about it,” Raven said.