Students take safety into their own hands

It's been three months since the University of Texas stabbing occurred leaving one student dead.  It’s also been over a year since Haruka Weiser's death back in April 2016.
Since the attacks the university has taken steps to ensure student safety as well as some students are now stepping up to plate and are taking safety into their own hands.

UT student Matt Gallegos was on campus the day the stabbing occurred.

"My reaction (to the stabbing) was just worrying about my friends that were in the area. And worrying about what was going on and piecing together what my friends were saying," said Gallegos.

After the incident Gallegos said he came to a harsh realization.

"It’s unnerving. It bursts the idea that UT is not completely safe, knowing that any little thing could have brought me to that point in time. If I had decided to workout at Gregory Gym that day or done something a little bit different," he said.

Gallegos decided to take steps to better equip himself in order to stay safe and protect others by attending a training course that outlines self-defense techniques and highlights situational awareness.

Saturday afternoon, the Black Tree training company hosted a free self-defense program aimed at college students.

Black Tree instructor Derrick Higgs, a former U.S. Marine and first degree martial arts instructor, said students and people often forget to stay alert and aware of their surroundings on a daily basis.

"People tend to get fixated and get that focus locked on their specific items such as cell phones or even their homework, whatever their doing, they’re not being aware of what's going on around them," said Higgs.

It’s during those moments; Higgs said students can become easy targets.

"If a predator is out and looking for those things, a potential aggressor can attack when he knows that you aren't paying attention and that your guard is down," said Higgs.

He also said paying attention to your surroundings and picking up on cues is important.

"That can potentially save your life or people’s lives around you," said Higgs.

Olivia Bulifant who attends Houston community college and is studying graphic design attended the course.

"I think people are unsuspecting at school a lot but that's one of the places you should be most aware," said Bulifant.

She adds before I took this course I didn't think twice about my surroundings.

"I always go straight to my phone, I pull it out and then my notebook and computer. I just start scrolling through my cell phone waiting for my professor to come in or I start talking to the person next to me," said Bulifant.

Now she said she will keep her eyes open and pay closer attention to her surroundings.

"I will look around at the doors, look around at the exit signs to see who's around you and if people are acting suspicious,” said Bulifant.

After taking the course Gallegos said he feels confident that he will use the techniques and skills in his everyday life.

"Students will for sure put their phones down more often and take their headphones off whenever they walk around campus, maybe look around and notice exits and see what people are doing around them. Even if its 10 seconds, that can make a world of a difference," said Gallegos.