LAUDERHILL (CBSMiami) – A group of students in Lauderhill took matters into their own hands to stop the violence and bullying they experienced on their way to school.
“That’s where most of the fights take place, so that’s why it’s scary to other people, because that’s the route you have to take home,” said one eighth grader.
The students call it the “Overpath”. It’s a concrete walkway that spans the Florida Turnpike which allows students to safely cross the highway on their way to and from Lauderhill Middle School.
Seventh grader Kervens Jean-Louis told CBS4’s Nicole Maristany why it’s so scary, “when you walk over it at night, you see the lights coming under you by them cars, you be getting scared.”
A fifty page report, compiled by the Lauderhill police department, lists the more than a hundred incidents of students being harassed, bullied and robbed while trying to cross the ‘overpath’.
“Every day we’re getting more and more stories of physical violence, verbal abuse, things being taken, shoes being taken so it’s disheartening,” explained Jocelyn Boyd, Executive Director of the Lauderhill Community YMCA at Lauderhill Middle School.
“There was one night I was walking, I was coming from the “Y” from the program. When I get over there, they just gang up on me,” said Jean-Louis.
The YMCA reached out to the Turnpike Authority and the Broward School Board to see what could be done to improve the safety of the ‘overpath’. They discussed implementing a variety of safety measures suggested by the students, including lights and security.
“I don’t really think that’s too much to ask. It doesn’t really take a lot,” said 6th grader Emmani Henry.
A Turnpike Authority spokesperson told CBS4 said it “supports meeting with parties to learn more about future goals” but they don not have the funds lights or security.
“There are always constraints, there are always budgetary constraints, there are always dynamics in play and no one wants this to be happening,” said Andrea Crawford from the YMCA Broward County.
While waiting for a final resolution, the YMCA saw an opportunity to help the students. They created a leadership and student journalism program in hopes of sparking a community movement which would ultimately lead to change.
“That’s the whole goal, to show students that they really have access to power and access to change,” said Crawford.
And change is something the students who use the ‘overpath’ are really looking forward to in the future.
“As we prepare to change the bad things in the City of Lauderhill, it’s like for some of the kids, a dream come true,” said Jean-Louis.
City commissioners have pledged to support the students’ efforts but so far the “Overpath Project” continues to be a work in progress.
Check out the students’ Live Well Lauderhill blog.