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Future Detroit Youth Symposium Takes Children's Suggestions For Urban Improvement

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FUTURE DETROIT
AP

Recent plans for Detroit's urban renewal came from an unexpected group: children, who will arguably be most affected by the city's future development.

A report released Tuesday, entitled Future Detroit: Envisioning Tomorrow Together Youth Symposium, compiled the results of a Youth Symposium where over 100 middle school students were brought together to discuss plans for Detroit's urban improvement. The report includes an overview of the February symposium, as well as summaries of the workgroup sessions where students brainstormed and shared ideas for their city's future.

The Symposium, which took place on February 12, was kicked off with an icebreaker question -- "What makes a city cool?" -- followed by a more detailed envisioning of Future Detroit brainstormed in workgroups.

The students' visions came in all varieties. Some were stark and realistic, like one idea to improve Detroit's dire education system with more and better teachers and a more familial atmosphere in schools.

Others were full of imagination, including creating a futuristic youth crime-fighting force called JET PACS (Just Everyday Technology Protecting All Children). Trained by the CIA, these kids would be responsible for reporting neighborhood and school crime. Presumably they get to fly around on jet packs, too.

Throughout the various solutions the children envisioned, their hope to empower themselves to help their communities shines through.

The reality of their concerns was just as apparent on Tuesday, during a ceremony for the report's release. During a question and answer session, one girl said that she didn't think schools needed more metal detectors. According to her, the problem is a lack of adult mentors, CBS reports.

She said:

"I think we need to have more people there for our kids. Most people I know don't bring weapons to school because they want to be big and bad, it's because they think they're not protected and there's nobody there for them."

The Youth Symposium, hosted by the Engineering Society of Detroit Institute, was the first symposium geared towards giving youth the tools to shape their city's future.

As the report states:

"[T]his effort proved to be one of our most exciting and inspiring challenges to date. The Future Detroit Youth Symposium was indeed a breakthrough in reaching voices often not heard."

ESD Institute hosts periodical symposia to tackle social issues that the community faces. Guests are usually specialists or personal stakeholders in a given issue, encouraged to think beyond particular agendas.

"Attendees are asked to take off their official or organizational hats and serve as interested and concerned individuals and not as a spokesperson or representative of a special interest group."

To help realize the children's goals, the Youth Symposium report included three concrete recommendations for the city based on the students' conclusions: a school security advisory council, a district-wide learning interactive council and a talent incubator.

According to CBS, ESD executive vice president Darlene Trudell said the ESD would consider these recommendations, and that they were taking them "very seriously."

The ESD offers footage from the Youth Symposium on its website.

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