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Mesa high schoolers brainstorm solutions to some of the city's biggest problems

High school students came together on Wednesday and Thursday for an event called Hacktivate Mesa.

The event, hosted by the city of Mesa, allows high schoolers from Mesa Public Schools to dissect, study and present findings on a range of topics, from behavioral health to climate change.

Amanda Freeman is a special projects administrator for the city. She said students work in teams and learn from subject matter experts to come up with possible solutions to those issues.

“A lot of the ideas that the students have had have actually been implemented," Freeman said. "Obviously it depends on the topic and the idea, but it has been stuff that we’ve actually used.”

For example, a 2023 team suggested the city plant more trees and add solar panels that provide shade to reduce the number of heat deaths.

Freeman said one of the biggest topics this year is fentanyl abuse.

“So we’re asking the students: 'If the city is taking an approach of education and prevention with an emphasis on youth, what are your ideas? Like, how do we get through to you? What is the best way to communicate with our community and with the youth and what information is missing?'” Freeman said. 

This is the fifth year the city has hosted the event.

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.