SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Fourteen students in the Syracuse schools are rising up and calling for change in the district.
They are part of the Syracuse Youth Advisory Council and they spent the last few months meeting with community leaders to combat poverty, violence and improve city schools.
This year, the council is tackling two major issues: diversity among teachers and better water fountains in schools.
Over the past semester, they studied problems affecting the City of Syracuse, meeting with common councilors and advocating for solutions.
After six months of hard work, they presented a comprehensive action plan focused on their two major problems.
“The problem is the lack of minority teachers in the Syracuse City School District. I’ve been going to Ed Smith and Nottingham for 13 years and I’ve only had three African-American teachers,” said Brynn Murphy-Stanley, senior at Nottingham.
She says it’s jarring not to see teachers who look like her, only staff in mostly custodial roles. At one point – her skill level was even questioned because of the color of her skin.
“Obviously it hurt me a lot. They are automatically like she should be in a lower level class, she shouldn’t be on the college track, she shouldn’t be on the Regents track, she shouldn’t be doing this just because of how she looks,” Murphy-Stanley said.
NewsChannel 9 did check with the school district and currently – 85 percent of teachers in the district are white and 15 percent are teachers of color.
This is in comparison to 22 percent of the students in the district who are white, while students of color make up 78 percent of the district.
Their solution: more student representation on district committees focused on minority recruitment. Her team is also encouraging younger students to go into education — then come back and teach in Syracuse.
Other students within the youth advisory council are pushing for updated water fountains in schools.
“At Ed Smith and Nottingham, we have the classic metal water fountains which are often dirty and some have the orange “do not drink signs” and it might shock you to learn that some of these fountains are upwards of 50 years old,” said Eli Mager, a sophomore at Nottingham High School.
When students were asked if they thought their fountains at school are safe, 69 percent said no. Their solution — starting a petition to call for support and funding from the Syracuse leaders and the district.
To learn more about the Youth Advisory Council, click here.