CMS Students Tackle Problems at Eastland Mall That Adults Can't Fix
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Long timers will tell you: teen violence led to Eastland Mall's downfall. From shootings to assaults, businesses were forced to close because shoppers just didn't feel safe.
Ironic, then, that a new generation of teens are making it their business to re-imagine the shopping center. "Eastland Mall, it could be a great community center, if the effort was put into it,” says Stephany Marte. She is part of the ACE Mentoring program. “ACE” stands for Architecture, Construction and Engineering.
She and other students took a field trip to the mall to study it with their mentors, who say the kids are really impressive. Mentor William Belcher says, " It's amazing to see kids that can ask intelligent questions."
It's not all fun and field trips for the students. They are faced with real life pressure, like deadlines and presentations. One of the mentors says he helps prepare the kids for presentations by comparing it to going in front of Simon Cowell on American Idol.
Pressure like that is no problem for Phillip O. Berry's Kenia Vazquez. She identified one problem at the mall right off the bat. She says, "It blocks the whole back neighborhood and there is no entrance for them, so it's just like, blocking everything out there." It's a mature observation for a high school senior, and that is by design. Mentor Heth Kendrick says, "That's the key, to be honest with you. Because if they don't have a major by the time they get to college, we find they flounder. Drop out rates are a little bit higher."
City councilwoman Nancy Carter was also on hand. She told the kids, who will work on their Eastland project for a year, to press elected leaders for the change they want to see.
Five schools participate in the ACE program. The goal is to include all Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools by 2015. Many of the students earn scholarships and go on to study related fields in college.
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