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Jacksonville teen wins scholarship for essay on impacts of witnessing football game shooting

A young man in Jacksonville has an experience with gun violence too many others now share.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — More people are now facing the trauma of gun violence following mass shootings in New York and California this weekend. 

A young man in Jacksonville has an experience with gun violence too many others now share. Jean Ribault High School senior Mykal Bolden won a scholarship for writing an essay in which he describes witnessing a shooting at his first high school football game and the impacts that had on his life.

"Life isn't promised to you, so take advantage of it," Bolden said.

This is Bolden's outlook now, but to get there, he went through something traumatic.

"During my first high school football game, which was the Raines and Lee football game of my freshman year," Bolden said. "I witnessed the guy who got killed that night, sadly, sending condolences to his family. I was just really shaken up, really scared to go to a lot of football games. I started participating less with my school. That has changed now."

Bolden wrote about his experience and overcoming the trauma after it in an essay. That essay won him a nearly $7,000 scholarship from Farah and Farah in a dollar-for-dollar match with the Florida Prepaid College Foundation to go toward his computer science degree in college.

Many others are still stuck in their own versions of the first days after experiencing gun violence. Gun homicides in the U.S. reached the highest level in 25 years during the first year of the pandemic, according to a new CDC report.

Last week in Jacksonville ended with community activists outside Andrew Jackson High School, where a 17-year-old was shot off campus. This week began with a Unity Rally following two mass shootings in the country over the weekend.

Though Bolden has an experience with gun violence too many others now share, he has hope for his generation.

"I just hope that my generation specifically begins to learn that we need each other," he said.

Boden gives a big thanks to Farah and Farah for the scholarship. He is also a member of Save Our Sons which celebrated 10 years over the weekend. See that story here.

Kids and teens can call the free mental health hotline to talk to someone at any time at 904-202-7900 or text LIFE to 741741.

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