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Howard University Hospital trauma team tackles violence prevention through mentorship program with DC high school

The team started mentoring students at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Anacostia 4 years ago and celebrated with a special showing of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

LARGO, Md. — We spend a lot of time talking about the violence impacting our young people. However, WUSA9 is highlighting a program that's working to keep kids on the right track. Four years ago, the trauma team at Howard University Hospital adopted a D.C. high school. Trauma doctors are not only healing wounds but healing spirits. Their mentees are now graduating seniors.  

They are both on the front lines of violence: The surgeon and the student.

“It does have a big impact on the trauma surgeon psychologically,” said Dr. Mallory Williams Medical Director of Howard University Hospital’s Trauma 1 Center.  

“It’s sorrow and grief now but later you have to reflect on it and say you just made it out,” added 18-year-old Tyrell Zanders.  

Howard’s trauma team reports a rise in gunshot victims rushed to their operating room. 

“I’m doing it night after night after night,” said Dr. Williams. “The smaller the child is the less likely they are going to be able to withstand that amount of force going through their body.”

“We’ve got to do more than just be that trauma center we got to say how can we prevent people from losing their lives,” added hospital CEO Anita Jenkins.

That’s where the AMC Magic Johnson Theater in Largo comes in with a special showing of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It’s a celebration of a
4-year-long mentorship program between Howard’s trauma team and 75 high school students from Anacostia’s Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School in Southeast, DC. They are now graduating seniors and for their entire high school careers have been paired up with doctors, social workers, psychologists, and mentors.

Tyrell Zanders said he found comfort in his support system, especially during the pandemic.

“I felt safe,” explained Zanders. “I had pathways to go to, like I can’t say I don’t have anyone to rely on I had help I had support everywhere I went. I needed help getting motivated. I asked for it and they gave me everything I needed and now I’m here!”

So as the students walked into Wakanda, they lifted the legacy of the late HU alum Chadwick Boseman and the promise of their own futures, shaped by mentors who invested and cared.

“In these characters that are being portrayed we see dignified people who look like us in a community that we want to be a part of,” said Dr. Williams, “so we feel like having this experience with the students from Thurgood Marshall allows them to have those reflections.”

“They can say, ‘he’s on-screen, he’s on film, and he’s just like me and he looks like me,” added Jenkins, “and when you watch the film, and you see the hard work it takes for excellence I think there’s a direct tie.”

“I know there’s a lot of advocacy (around preventing youth violence) but we need to put more action behind it and help,” said Zanders. “We need to have even more organizations that kids can go to, so they won’t be on the street trying to find their own way.”

RELATED: What's being done to address kids and crime in DC?

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