GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan —

Students in Grand Rapids offered ideas and solutions to the challenges that they face in their neighborhoods at KidSpeak 2019. 

When it comes to offering solutions, kid’s voices are often drowned out, but the event Friday gave them a platform and an audience. More than 30 K-12 kids were asked to finish the sentence "In my neighborhood I would..."

“Most of the City planners seem to care more about bringing consumers to the West Side than increasing the quality of life for the residents or creating a community of people who live here. Not just people who like to go to Harmony Hall on the weekends.” said Nilay Jones a 10th grader at Union High School.

“The streets are not always safe to walk along. You may encounter a prostitute, a potential threat, someone who's willing to strip you from your family, said Jakari Richardson, a sophomore at Innovation Central.

During the two hours of the event, the kids took center stage—uncensored. 

“Whether it was safety in their neighborhood, whether it was around concern about their parent’s safety concern, about affordable housing and being pushed out of their neighborhood," said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “And then some of the other things that the young people brought up today around air quality and smoking and theft and being concerned that they can't have a bike in their neighborhood."

Shannon L. Harris is a program coordinator for the event. She said that the students got the opportunity to speak to the mayor, city commissioners, county commissioners, state legislators, school board members and community leaders. 

“When decisions get made about what happens in their neighborhoods they're not invited to the table. So this was really an opportunity for them to really speak out," said Harris. 

“We want to feel proud of ourselves and not just Bridge Street," said Jones.

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