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MAKING A MARK: Mother spreads gun violence awareness in her son's honor

The recent spike in gun violence across Hampton Roads hits home for Britta Whitehead, whose son Luis Zambrana Jr. was shot and killed in Newport News two years ago.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The color orange means something different to Britta Whitehead.

"We wear orange for our children and the ones that have been impacted by gun violence because we want them to be seen. We don't want their deaths to go unnoticed," said Whitehead. 

Her son, Luis Zambrana Jr., was shot and killed two years ago in Newport News. The Norfolk State University student, whose friends called him Lou, was just 20 years old.

"All of a sudden, I start getting these alerts about a shooting that had happened at Exxon in Newport News... And then, it came over the news alert that it was my son. And I saw his name. And I just lost it," said Whitehead.

"Nine days before that, my son and my father had just walked me down the aisle. So, I had just gotten married," said Whitehead. "And it was the last time I really... saw him, and hugged him, and kissed his face."

Whitehead's grief became her catalyst to push for change. 

"I could no longer just sit and look and just wish my son was here," said Whitehead. "So, I've decided to join Moms Demand Action. I'm really active in that organization... We're advocating to make sure that laws are put in place such to keep everyone safe."

Her efforts also span into education with the creation of an endowed scholarship fund at Norfolk State University in memory of Lou. 

"He had a love for theater. He really thought he was going to be the next Denzel Washington," said Whitehead. "I wanted to do something to help his legacy live on."

"We're going educate students," said Whitehead. "That's something that you can put in your mind, and no one can take that from you."

Whitehead said it's all so young people can chase their dreams and live their lives.

"My son isn't here anymore," said Whitehead. "I'm out here advocating so your son will have a chance."

You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Luis Zambrana, Jr. Memorial Endowed Scholarship at Norfolk State University by clicking here. Select "Designated Gifts" and enter your amount. Type "Luis Zambrana, Jr. Memorial Endowed Scholarship" in the description field.

To mail your contribution, write "Luis Zambrana, Jr. Memorial Endowed Scholarship" on the memo line of your check or money order and send to: Norfolk State University, Division of University Advancement, 700 Park Avenue, HBW 410, Norfolk, VA 23504

You can also make a secure gift over the phone by calling the Norfolk State University Division of University Advancement at 757-823-8323.