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High school students react to Baltimore unrest

Video message from student leaders shares concerns, ideas for positive change

9/22/2015, 12:02 p.m.
A group of 10 Baltimore students representing five of the city’s public high schools delivered an inspiring message to their ...
Freddie Gray was in perfect health until police chased and tackled him in Baltimore over a week ago, his lawyer said. Less than an hour later, he was on his way to a trauma clinic with a spinal injury, where he fell into a coma. (Photo: Family of Freddie Gray)

— A group of 10 Baltimore students representing five of the city’s public high schools delivered an inspiring message to their classmates, school communities, and the public in a video shown at a recent meeting of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. Sparked by the unrest in Baltimore this spring following the death of Freddie Gray and in response to recent violence and frustration over inequity of opportunity, these students speak eloquently both of the challenges they face and the commitment they have to positive change.

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Student Voices on Facing Challenges in Baltimore Following April Unrest

Student voices on facing challenges in Baltimore communities and working for positive change from Baltimore City Public Schools on Vimeo.

We are so much better than what has been going on,” Drew, a student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) said in the video. “I felt embarrassed, but at the same time I think we needed to be heard,” added Janiyah from Carver Vocational-Technical High School. “I’m worried about society stopping me from achieving my goals,” said Isaiah from Baltimore City College.

“My hopes and prayers for the future need us getting together and interacting,” said Kevin from Northwestern High School. “Who would make this change? That would simply be us,” said Kyle, a Poly student. “The power is already within us.”

The video was filmed at a student leadership retreat that took place on the final Saturday of summer vacation. Organized in partnership with Coppin State University, the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health, and the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City, the event brought more than 100 high school students together to focus on team building, decision making, and opportunities to discuss how to use their strengths and skills to act as agents of positive change in their schools.

“Our students have been deeply affected by events in our city in the past months, but for many, those events are connected to challenges they’ve experienced for far longer,” said City Schools CEO Gregory E. Thornton. “That’s why students like the group in this video are so inspiring. When we give them a chance to make their voices heard, they talk honestly about their fears in ways that are sometimes hard to hear. But then they talk with passion and commitment about what they can do to make a difference and how we can support them. It’s impossible not to feel a sense of optimism about the future these students can make.”

The district plans to convene a student leadership summit later this fall.