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Wayzata teens found nonprofit to find solutions to reduce school shootings

Nonprofit founded by Wayzata teens seeks to reduce school shootings
Nonprofit founded by Wayzata teens seeks to reduce school shootings 03:20

WAYZATA, Minn. — School safety is top of mind for a group of Wayzata teenagers. So much so, they founded a nonprofit meant to reduce school shootings and gun violence.

"It's a very complicated thing to tackle," Wayzata High School senior May Zeroni said. "We are taking a simple step to protect those in schools and your gun rights."

Zeroni and fellow senior Anuj Kakkad are two of the seven co-founders of Vigilance Safety: a student led organization dedicated to developing solutions to reduce school shootings. The group spent years competing at Destination Imagination; a creativity competition that challenges students to solve problems to complex solutions. Their solution centered around student safety earned them a global first place award in 2022.

"Unfortunately, that same night the Uvalde school shooting occurred," Kakkad said. "So while we were happy at first, it really brought the gravity of the situation down that, hey, school shootings is a real, tangible threat. And we eventually realized that our solution actually had potential."

That summer the group turned their solution into a 501-C3. A proposal to put proximity tags—or RFID tags—onto guns and sensors into schools. The idea is that gun owners would voluntarily put on the tags. That way if a gun gets into the wrong hands, and is detected near a school, a lock down would be activated. It's not new technology. In fact—RFID tags are used in clothing stores to avoid shoplifting and even how a credit card is able to use contactless pay.

"We knew that this would make an impact and that this would just just take another step to protect those in schools, so we decided to go for it. And we are so happy that we did," Zeroni said.

Zeroni says community support has been great, but the teens also recognize the challenges ahead.

"Our solution is completely voluntary," Kakkad said. "Gun owners choose to get these tags on their guns at no cost to themselves. These tags do not track them, they do not store any personal information whatsoever. What they do do is ensure that these gun owners can be more responsible with their guns and keep their kids, the people that matter to them, safe."

In April, Kakkad was named a 2024 Prudential Emerging Visionary. He cut through 700 applicants and represented Vigilance Safety at a three-day summit with 24 other young leaders. He also took home a $5,000 grant to take their mission to the next level.

"Our ultimate goal is obviously adoption is schools," Kakkad said. "We believe that once we put it in a couple schools and show that the solution will actually work effectively, other schools will hop on board."

Vigilance Safety is aiming to raise $150,000 to develop and pilot their solution. If you're interested in learning more, click here.

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