CINCINNATI -- Students at Aiken High School took their government lesson beyond the classroom Tuesday, presenting a project about mass incarceration to three city council members.
"First it was a project, and now it's bigger to us," junior Keyilah Covington said.
Mass incarceration is an issue affecting close to 2 million people currently behind bars in the U.S.
"We're spending so much money, it's breaking up families and it's undermining our workforce, so it was amazing to see young people put so much energy and heart," Councilmember Greg Landsman said.
Landsman joined Councilmembers Tamaya Dennard and David Mann in listening to the students' presentation.
"We've got to be committed to take seriously the disparities that exist and act as we're able to as a city," Mann said.
During a council meeting Tuesday, they did just that, voting to approve a wage monitor motion that would help lift wages in the city and protect workers.
"Having a job is one thing, but having a job that pays you what you're supposed to be paid is another," Dennard said.
That relates to mass incarceration and the effort to give those with a criminal record a second chance.
"Being a black child in general, you feel this stuff because some of our parents have gone through this, and some of our parents have had to go out and hustle for our families," junior Natacea Robinson said.
Through presentations like the one Tuesday, the students aim to raise awareness about the issues and prompt change.
"While mass incarceration is a state and federal issue in large part, there's got to be more that we can do here in the City of Cincinnati," Landsman said.
That change could start in the hands of some of the city's youngest residents, taking their textbook lessons even further.
"Regardless of what we've been taught, there are deep injustices and flaws in the system we live in and the only way it's going to change is to start fighting," teacher John Klingler said.