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New four-part series from Uni High and Illinois Public Media focus on the rise in gun violence in Champaign-Urbana


Illinois Public Media has combined forces with University Laboratory High School once again to create a four-part series, “Changing the Narrative: Preventing Gun Violence in Champaign-Urbana”.

This series is available now as a part of the newly launched Illinois Youth Media Podcasta production of Illinois Public Media in collaboration with school districts across our region that offers an ongoing digital space for young people to share stories about their communities and their own lives to better understand their past, present, and future. “Changing the Narrative: Preventing Gun Violence in Champaign-Urbana” is the most recent topic to be explored as a part of this new podcast initiative.

"Uni High students, under the direction of their teacher, Melissa Schoeplein, continue to explore issues in Champaign-Urbana from individual as well as grassroots and institutional perspectives," said Kimberlie Kranich, director of the Illinois Youth Media Project at Illinois Public Media. "These first-hand accounts provide important context for what is happening now and connect people to local resources. We are grateful for the trust of those who participate in contributing their stories."

In particular, the “Changing the Narrative: Preventing Gun Violence in Champaign-Urbana” series strives to give a voice to individuals in the community who are working to prevent gun violence.

“We chose this topic because of its multilayered significance to the Champaign-Urbana community. People hold such divisive opinions about gun ownership, but we wanted to move past political arguments and discuss how gun violence affects neighbors and families on a human level,” said Anya Kaplan-Hartnett, student producer (Uni High class of 2020). “Hopefully, this project will inspire listeners to reconsider their own opinions and get involved to make our community a better place for all.”

Through the perspective of the interviewees and throughout the four episodes, listeners will learn more about efforts to combat the rising number of gun shootings occurring in Champaign-Urbana.

Episode 1Ceasing Fire: Anti-Gun Violence Work in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois: Representatives from CU Fresh Start, TRUCE, Moms Demand Action, the Champaign Coalition and other groups trying to end gun violence describe their programs and efforts.

Episode 2Be Smart: Creating Legislation to Curb Gun Violence: Community members in Champaign describe efforts to reduce gun violence at the state-level, and share their opinions on the balance between safety and liberty that various gun legislation seeks to achieve.                                                                                

Episode 3A Deadly Link: Guns and Suicide: Members of organizations including Rattle the Stars and Moms Demand Action describe the prevalence of gun-related suicides around the country, and how they are working to prevent them in Champaign-Urbana.

Episode 4Healing a Community: How Gun Violence Trauma Shapes People: Members of the Champaign-Urbana community explain how gun-violence devastates a society and discuss organizations that offer support to victims experiencing trauma.

“After listening to our podcast series, I think that audience members will broaden their perspectives on the complex issue of gun violence. And for that, we have to thank our interviewees, who were willing to share their personal experiences and provide a rewarding learning experience for us Uni High students,” said Keshav Gandhi, student producer (Uni High class of 2021).

This series was created as a part of Uni High School’s Oral History Project and features interviews conducted in 2019 with people on all sides of the gun debate.

“The Uni High Oral History Projects are always student-driven. For this project, the student leaders had helped organize local youth engagement in the April 2018 National School Walkout against gun violence. This activism inspired the students to better understand gun violence in our own community and the challenging work involved in trying to end the violence,” said Melissa Schoeplein, project director for Uni High.

The Illinois Youth Media Podcast, including every episode from “Changing the Narrative: Preventing Gun Violence in Champaign-Urbana”, can be found at will.illinois.edu/illinoisyouthmedia as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.