Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry surprised a group of Duval County Lee High School leadership students with suite tickets to two Jaguars home games. The teens will go in two groups.
“You can have all the food, all the soda, air conditioning,” Curry said of the suite.
The students, who call themselves the “EVAC Movement,” have met with the mayor several times about changing the juvenile justice system. Earlier this year Curry promised the students Jags tickets when they met with him at City Hall.
But Tuesday, he also had an ask of the all-boys class. He wants them to advise future members of the Kids Hope Alliance – a new city agency focused on youth programs tackling issues like literacy, summer camp and juvenile justice.
“These young men are the example...of what works and they’ve done it frankly on their own with very little resources, with their teacher,” Curry said. “They hold each other accountable, write down their goals, chase their dreams, pursue their grades. This is the model.”
Junior Alan McCullough calls his leadership class a brotherhood. He said his classmates keep him on the right track when it comes to his grades, attendance and attitude and he’s glad to help mold the city’s future youth programs.
“I’m excited to know we can be advisors in that and teach them what youth life is like because that’s really all we do,” McCullough said. “We try to inform older people or authority how it is to be in the life as youth.”
The teens, the majority of whom are black, work to influence policy by sharing their own stories. They speak about the experience of feeling profiled by law enforcement, which can include being detained and questioned. The teens also touch on issues at home and living near crime for some.
The EVAC students have spoken at a Juvenile justice summit in Washington D.C. and regularly meet with city leaders including the state attorney, law enforcement and other city officials. EVAC is cave backward and refers to evacuating into the light and evoking hope. Curry has started referring to kids as “at-hope” instead of “at-risk” because of the class.
The future of the class had been up in the air over the summer but has since been reinstated.
Curry said once the Kids Hope Alliance board is confirmed by the city council, the members will meet with the teens. The mayor says he’ll nominate board members by the end of November.
— Lindsey Kilbride (@lindskilbride) October 31, 2017