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'My voice was heard at the U.N.': Chicago teens travel to Switzerland, speaking at conference on racism and violence

Chicago teens travel to Switzerland, speaking at conference on racism and violence
Chicago teens travel to Switzerland, speaking at conference on racism and violence 02:36

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They're taking Chicago's gun violence crisis to the global stage.

it's a heavy burden to bear for anyone, but as CBS 2's Steven Graves explains, some high schoolers took on the challenge. Only on 2, they talk about the fight for change, thousands of miles away from home.

From Chicago's Englewood neighborhood to Geneva, Switzerland. It is a long journey, but one 16-year-old Arseny Acosta found necessary.

"I've seen the violence. I've seen the discrimination in Englewood. Change is all we want."

A motivation that brought her to the United Nations, testifying in front of leaders across the globe in an effort to inform about lived experiences - to end gun violence.

"Englewood does not have food and housing security like a white neighborhood in Wicker Park has," she said. "Just speaking out, honestly, was something really big to me. I felt like my voice was heard in the UN. You had all of these people listening to you."

Her voice now able to be heard after an effort starting out of Bogan High School.

Students were challenged to create a report to submit to the U-N for its International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination or "CERD."

It resulted in this: passionate viewpoints poured into artwork, essays and and even a rap song. It got selected, with added viewpoints from groups Women's All Point Bulletin and GoodKids MadCity's solution to curbing gun violence.

"The Peace Book will fund programs that allow survivors of trauma to heal."

That's 21-year-old Damayanti Wallace of GoodKids MadCity trying to get support for the "Peace Book Ordinance."  It's an initiative that is youth-led, with peace commissions of violence interrupters and peacekeepers.

An alternative to policing and preventing violent crime that would take about 2% of the Chicago Police Department budget.

"They are looking at it as something that is taking from, when in reality we're giving back to our communities and we're in vesting in the young people, in the youth that are going to be coming up after them," Wallace said.

She claims "they", some people in City Hall and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has criticized defunding the police, have all ignored their pleas, making this time to speak feel special, but also sad that they felt they had to come to Switzerland.

"It felt like people listened. Because we love Chicago. We wouldn't have created an entire Peace Book trying to save the people if we didn't love it," Wallace said.

A life-changing experience that has older mentors.

"The United Nations Switzerland just showed us a different outlook on life. What life's supposed to be," said GoodKids MadCity mentor Camiella Williams

An international journey to enact change at home.

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