Area High School Students Connect With Ferguson Students to Discuss Racism

By Breanna Fuss
Saturday, January 9, 016 at 03:17 PM EST

Studying took on a deeper, more personal meaning the past two days at Irondequoit High School. Time Warner Cable News reporter Breanna Fuss explains the 'Student Summit on Race' that's taking place.

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IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. -- It's students, leading students, in a sometimes uncomfortable, but still a hot topic discussion involving race.

"In our generation, conversations are much more comfortable than the older generation because we are just more open," said Joab Louis, West Irondequoit High School. "But, that doesn't mean the conversation still isn't hard to have."

Louis was one of 200 students from across the area who gathered for day two of the Gateway2Change's summit. They were there to learn, discuss and brainstorm how to combat race, racism, privilege and internalized racism.

Students learned the definition of key terms that define who we all are as individuals.

"A non-racist is someone who is not discriminatory based upon race, but they are indifferent," said Gina DiPaola, West Irondequoit High School. "They're not going to call out a friend who makes a racist comment. Then an anti-racist is someone who is not discriminatory but will call out a friend who makes a racist comment."

The students pledged to be the latter, hoping to spark a change in their community.

"I was just inspired, it was so amazing," DiPaola said.

It's a ripple effect that began in the Ferguson, St. Louis area by these students.

"It's an effort really to get students talking about racial issues in the country," said Jaylen Bledsoe, with ‘Gateway2Change.’

Bledsoe, along with four other Missouri students made Rochester their first stop outside of the state. The 17-year-old said the summit is about opening eyes, minds and hearts.

"Students telling you they look like they have an amazing life now, but they've been homeless the past six months," Bledsoe said.

Now their next mission is to take what they've learned outside of Irondequoit High School's walls.

"As we youth we realized we need to use our voice in a way that's productive for our community," Louis said.