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Alta Vista Students Help Clean Up Graffiti on Westside

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- High school students on Kansas City's Westside are taking a stand in their neighborhood - a stand against gang messages, vandalism, crime and property damage.

The Alta Vista Charter students were armed with brushes, rollers and cans of paint, sending a message that the graffiti won't be tolerated where they live and learn.

The students were covering walls of the Westside Community Action Network Center. It was an idea that art teacher Annie Craft came up with.

"Part of being involved in the community is having a nice safe place for them to come," said Craft.

Craft called Police Officer Chato Villalobos who works with the CAN Center and pitched her plan.

"By getting rid of the tagging that is in the area and keeping our area clean, we are promoting a better community environment for our students," Craft said.

Thursday's cleanup was the second project the students, police and the CAN Center collaborated with.

"The kids really got into it," said Villalobos.

"Its cool being able to clean up things like this," said student Gabriel Rodriguez.

Villalobos says it's the best thing you can do to drive crime in the neighborhood down.

"For the neighbors that live area here, it just sends a message that this area is being watched.  Cause if you ignore it, criminals who are out, people who are trying to be opportunistic in property crimes will come and say this area is not being watched, therefore its probably places we can potentially burglarize," he said.

"I want it to be like a good neighborhood," said student Nahi Vazquez.

The hope is that projects like this foster artistic talent. Alta Vista would like to have local artist a mentor the students and in the end, create a big mural at the Westside CAN Center.

The students also plan to continue covering graffiti in the neighborhood, but donations for supplies are always needed.

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