No Land Is Innocent

How a city still among the most segregated in the country can help its similarly struggling Midwestern neighbors.

Billie Holiday famously condemned the South in the tearless sob “Strange Fruit.”

“Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees.”

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GOOD Ideas for Cities: Increasing High School Graduation Rates

How to encourage more high school students to get their degrees? Create an off-campus community center where they learn and practice real-life skills.


In the City of St. Louis, like in many urban centers, less than one third of high school students graduate, leading to increased rates of unemployment, crime, and substance abuse. How can cities encourage more students to get their degrees? As part of GOOD Ideas for Cities St. Louis, ACTivate the City presents their idea for motivating students to stay in school by offering them a chance to develop real-life skills. After learning that many students drop out because they feel that their schoolwork is not relevant to the challenges they're already facing outside the classroom, the team created a concept called The Sight, an off-campus building that functions like a cross between a vocational learning environment and community center. Students would work together on renovating the building itself, learning skills like architecture and construction from local experts, then program the space with everything from cultural events to cooking classes to offering babysitting for fellow students who are also parents. The students become invested in improving their local community while creating a safe, creative space that keeps them active and engaged with their fellow students.

Challenge: One of the most critical challenges facing St. Louis is the low graduation rate for St. Louis City schools. Currently, only 20 to 30 percent of St. Louis City students graduate from high school. We know that low graduation rates cost taxpayers more, and as a result there is a rise in crime, homelessness, and substance abuse rates in the city. How do we motivate and empower more local high school students to graduate?

Rachelle Morgan, Shearwater
Jay Swoboda, The Homeless Empowerment Project
Sarah McCabe, The Point

ACTivate the City: Stan Chisholm, Dayna Kriz, Gina Martinez, Kevin McCoy, Mallory Nezam, Carlie Trosclair, Daniel Waxler

To learn more about this idea contact ACTivate the City at thesightstl[at]gmail[dot]com

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GOOD Ideas for Cities: Showcasing St. Louis' Creative Talent

How can a city demonstrate its cultural offerings to its citizens? Create urban beacons that act as visual indicators of local creative activity.


Sometimes it can be hard to demonstrate the breadth of cultural activity that's happening in a city—especially to naysayers who claim there's nothing going on. How can a city showcase its creativity in a way that makes citizens want to be a part of it? As part of GOOD Ideas for Cities St. Louis, Brain Drain presented its idea for making St. Louis's assets more tangible. As they examined the challenge, Brain Drain realized that St. Louis already possessed rich cultural activity—the problem was making it apparent to locals and outsiders. They developed the idea of building a network of large, glowing pillars that would grow brighter depending on the frequency of nearby social media like Tweets, Foursquare check-ins, and Yelp reviews. Using a browser or an app, people would view visualizations that showed the information feeding each pillar, and the pillars themselves would act as beacons in the urban environment: providing lighting (and safety) at night, serving as a kind of public square, and providing free wifi hotspots throughout the city.

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