Mesa high schoolers compete to find solutions to issues their communities are facing

A big competition involving different high schools in Mesa took place Jan. 25 to 26 – the third annual Hacktivate.

It's a two-day event where students from nine different high schools find solutions to problems facing their community. Winners get to present their solutions to the city.

Shadyn Russo is a junior at Skyline High School in Mesa and her group is working on solving the mental health issues kids face at a young age.

"One of our main ideas is to implement social workers into high schools," she said. "Starting it younger, teaching them at a younger age will help them process their emotions earlier because it is easier to understand things at an earlier age."

Other teams are working on topics like climate change, homelessness, as well as mental health issues. Groups use the city's data to come up with the best ways to fight these issues.

"We want to know what they have to say, so it is not just we want to look at the data and tell us what they learned, we want to hear their ideas too," an organizer said.

There is a panel of judges, including the vice mayor of the city of Mesa, listening as they present. The students are hoping their ideas will make a good impression so they can implement them into the community.

"The idea isn't just for the city workers to get ideas, but also to inspire students to use data and to learn about local government and what is going on around them," the organizer said.

"It benefits our community and our community is what we live in, and we know it is better to help the people around us, so we can help ourselves too," Russo said.

The city says the winners will get to sit down with city managers or other community leaders to figure out the best way to implement their plans.

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