Problematic pathways prod student to address city leaders about safety concerns

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MISSION, Kan. -- A fourth grader from Mission is putting civics into practice by addressing her city leaders to point out problems she sees with pathways leading to her elementary school.

Lola Gravatt, 9, attends Highlands Elementary off Roe Avenue and W. 63rd Street. She says those two busy highways are the main path for students to walk or bike to school because there are no other viable options.

“I’m always scared,” Lola said of walking along Roe Avenue, “because I always have to look behind me a bunch, in front and everything, and it's just scary because you're not sure if a car's going to hit you.”

Lola said it all comes down to safety for her fellow students.

“There are two once-awesome paths,” Lola said of alternative pathways, “and they are broken down, the fences are too close and I just want to fix that.”

She describes those two other pathways to school as “dangerous” for walkers and bikers, pointing to their narrow width, overgrown bushes and crumbling, lopsided concrete.

“Walking up or walking down, you could get hurt,” she told FOX 4’s Katie Banks as they toured the area Thursday afternoon.

Lola said she likes fixing problems and, “I want the people who are going to be there after me to be able to have a safer way to get to school.”

So she spoke her piece this week in front of Mission's Community Development Committee, a group already studying safer routes to area schools thanks to a $20,000 federal grant.

“It is the kind of citizen input that truly does make a difference,” said Emily Randel, public information officer for the city of Mission.

“She had a really professionally done presentation. She hit all of the important points that the council members wanted to hear from her. Honestly, it`s a model that a lot of us could follow!” Randel said of Lola’s presentation.

She’s a little girl impressing city leaders with her ideas and passion, hoping to make a difference now – and in the future.

“I want to either be a doctor or a lawyer,” Lola said.

What about a politician?

“Maybe,” she added with a smile.

City leaders have already invited Lola to help lead a focus group as their Safe Routes to School Study progresses.

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