Lee High School students want to see real change in community

Students hope they'll impact decisions made at City Hall, Sheriff's Office

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A group of local high schoolers are showing what it means to be Positively Jax.

The Robert E. Lee High School students want to see real change in the community. They come from all backgrounds and each with a unique story.

They told those stories Wednesday to some big community leaders, hoping they'll impact decisions made at City Hall and the Sheriff's Office.

Inside the high school, a group of students prepared for months for this day.

"We all realize we have different stories on how we do such things, and the way we grew up and that impacts us in a big way," a student said.

Those different stories are told by the simple gesture of raising a hand.

"Raise your hands if you have any immediate family members who are in jail or anything?" Daquan Jackson said as people raised their hands. "How many of you have been arrested?"

The adults seen sitting with the Robert E. Lee High School students are people like a city councilman, a U.S. District Court judge, members of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and even News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith. They were invited to hear what these upperclassmen believe could help their neighborhoods.

"What I've learned in my years of teaching is that the youth know what the solutions are for youth," teacher Amy Donofrio said. "They know where the lacking is for the community. They know what the needs are."

Donofrio said the goal is to give the group a voice.

"Youth in our communities normally don't have a good relationship with (police). They see them as authority figures. That's it," a student said. "But if you get on a first-name basis with someone, then how can you learn to see them one way? You learn to love."

The ideas recently took the group to the nation's Capitol, participating in a Department of Justice roundtable event, hoping to inspire real change.

The group will go to Washington, D.C., again in August, where they will present a session similar to that one at a National Youth Summit.

Their teacher said she hopes to see this program picked up in other schools so students can tackle issues that directly affect their neighborhoods.

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