KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City teens are speaking out about violence in their city. They believe the community needs to do more to keep them safe.

Wednesday night a panel of young people came together to talk about their feelings and leaders were there to listen. The meeting comes after 14-year-old Manuel Guzman was killed at Northeast Middle School by a fellow student earlier this month.

The panel of around ten teenagers talked about the violence the see and experience in their everyday lives. They say to be able to talk about it helps and they are hoping for change in the future.

For them, ArtsTech gives them a safe place to be in a city where they often feel unsafe. The organization is a non-profit serving young people (14 to 24) by encouraging art and technical skills.

“Art is our outlet. It’s what we do,” Tatyiana Johnney, 15, said.

“I don’t believe that they’ve had that space to even express themselves on what’s been going on in their schools,” Dominique Hines, ArtsTech Program Administrative Coordinator, said. “For the people that don’t believe kids are the decision makers they will be soon.”

In 2021, more than 30 people between the ages of 14 to 24 were killed. Eleven out of 47 homicides this year were young people between that age group.

After the stabbing at Northeast Middle, Executive Director of ArtsTech, Juan Tabb felt the teens needed to talk. The discussion was led by them with questions provided around 15 minutes before the start of the event.

Johnney goes to Paseo High along with Terry Simpkins, 17. They say talks like these along with the ability to express themselves helps them get past their frustrations.

“What happens if this kid had a dream and they want to live up to it? Next thing you know this kid can’t do that because they got shot or got killed,” one panelist said.

“We talk about it with our parents, our friends, but sometimes we don’t express how we really feel. So, I think getting all different types of teenagers up here with different opinions, different minds, different experiences was really great. An amazing idea, honestly,” Johnney said.

“I thought that this was something that’s extremely necessary for our community and I’m happy that we had it,” Simpkins said.

Tabb said he’s proud of how the teens discussed difficult issues in front of city leaders. Community activists, a member of the Kansas City Public School Board, and Fifth District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw sat and listened to the teen’s feelings and concerns.

“For youth to be able to put these emotions and feelings into actions in painting, and creation but also through words expressing themselves is awesome,” Tabb said.

“Hearing another child being dead or got killed or got hurt is not necessary. You shouldn’t have to be coming out here killing kids for no reason,” another panelist said.

Tabb hopes discussions like these not only help them understand themselves better, but the world around them as well.

“They took it and ran with it, and so, I’m just very proud,” Tabb said.

On May 11 ArtsTech will show a recording of the panel discussion to city leaders like Mayor Lucas and council members.

“The May 11 event is going to be youth and adult driven because we want to address the youth’s opinions, but also some of the views that the youth have and we want to give them answers,” Tabb said.