INDIANAPOLIS, Ind (Feb. 27, 2015)– An Indianapolis teenager is turning his own personal tragedy into a learning experience for others. Jalen Vaughn’s 13-year-old cousin, Ashton Harting, was shot and killed over Martin Luther King Weekend on the northeast side. Police say Dino Thompson, 17, pulled the trigger.
Vaughn also tragically lost his brother years ago. Despite the hardships Vaughn has endured, he wants to help others take a closer look at their own lives.
“I feel like they died too early. But now I’m here to live their lives,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn organized and led a panel discussion about freedom, and the many definitions of the word. Vaughn held the event at his school Gambold Preparatory Magnet High School.
“I put this together to honor my cousin Ashton Harting,” said Vaughn
Vaughn says his personal definition of freedom has evolved since losing his cousin.
“We are free but we are not free in the total sense because there are guns out there and there people with guns who do not need to have guns,” said Vaughn.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was among the group of panelists.
“I think it’s a great sign for hope in the future,” said Zoeller.
Zoeller says that he was ordering coffee at a local restaurant when Vaughn spotted him and invited him to participate.Zoeller said he couldn’t refuse the opportunity.
Vaughn’s Principal has taken notice of the high school junior’s efforts.
“It’s inspiring is what it is,” said Shane O’Day, Principal Gambold Magnet Preparatory High School.
Rather than having this tragedy negatively impact his life,Vaughn is using it to teach, and help others understand his idea of the word freedom. He hopes he can make a difference while keeping his cousin’s legacy alive.
“I can let them live through me. I can be that guiding light for them and they can be that guiding light in my life,” said Vaughn.
“When Jalen decided to take the tragic events in his life and make them inspirational–that’s what makes us most proud,” said O’Day.
Vaughn says he plans on organizing other events in the future.