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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — “My name is Josie and I’m an eighth grade student at Ed Smith.”
This is not what you usually see when you walk inside Syracuse Common Council Chambers, but on Tuesday, you’ll see politics through a different lens.

Eighth graders used their voice and photography to make a change.

“Normally I don’t get to voice how I feel because some people think it’s funny and child’s play or I’m exaggerating about the community, but at the end of the day, you can’t talk about the problem if you’re not trying to resolve the problem,” eighth-grader Jamiah Lyles said.

Over the past year, Lyles, along with the entire eighth grade class at Ed Smith chronicled those problems in photographs. City streets filled with graffiti, potholes, cracked sidewalks and liquor bottles.

And on Tuesday, in front of a room packed with city leaders, they presented their project called “Through Our Eyes.”

“I took this picture because all around Syracuse, on the curbs and roads, they are littered with beer bottles, henny bottles and garbage wrappers and stuff like that and it’s not a pretty thing to see and not how I want Syracuse to be represented,” Colleen McKenney said.

Lyles said, “I just want change and everyone to feel comfortable in their communities. I don’t want people feeling like they have to get out of here because so many people want to come here but nobody wants to come to this,”

You could feel their passion and love for their community, but they didn’t just talk about the problems. They also talked about the solutions, asking the mayor to turn abandoned buildings into homes and businesses. 

All of them empowered now that their voices are being heard.

“I feel really good and it was really productive and the mayor he already had a bunch of our ideas down,” Josie Hakizimana said

McKenney said, “It feels very good to know that the city leaders, it’s now in their hands and they can change some of the stuff we talked about.”

“I hope that action actually happens and I hope that people see this and see that you can do good,” Lyles said.

They know the change starts with them and this is only the beginning of making Syracuse a better place.

Once their school is renovated, the students will have a mural of their work inside of Ed Smith School.

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For more local news, follow Jennifer Sanders on Twitter @JSandersNC9





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