Unique snapshot of life in the inner city

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March 3, 2011, 4:19 pm
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(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Boston, Mass.) - It's something that we do not always think about -- how do the others around us live?

Some Boston schoolchildren want the world to know about the challenges they face -- and the goals they have.

I really love this part because it really looks like a map.

Liv Chaffee is a busy woman. The 23-year-old first year art teacher has back to back classes at Boston's John Marshall Elementary School and is gearing up for the kid's first public art show.

"A lot of them feel, maybe, that they're misunderstood or that people don't understand what they're going through."

The Marshall is tucked in the heart of Boston's Dorchester neighborhood and these third and fourth graders tick off their experiences with inner city violence with a heartbreaking matter of fact-ness.

"On my street there's a lot of murdering and shooting."

"There was a lot of people shooting each other and I was afraid."

"Shooting near my window so we had to move."

"There's a lot of shootin and stabbin."

"I thought I wasn't gonna see my mom again."

"When I hear gun shots, it make me scared."

"The gun shots are very loud and they could, like, kill somebody."

To help the kids try and balance their situations and emotions, Chaffee launched "Walkin' the Tightrope." She got Converse to donate more than 100 pairs of stark, white sneakers -- blank canvasses.

"Look at their faces -- they're just so cute! And I mean anything I can do to improve their quality of life -- that's what a school is here to do. A school should be a place they feel safe to come and express themselves and work out anything that's going on."

The kids also wrote essays finishing the sentence, if you walked a mile in my shoes you'd know...
If you walked a mile in 10 year old Stephane Rome's shoes you'd know he was born in Port au Prince. And the bold red and blue design covering *his sneakers is a tribute to his home country Haiti.

"There was some of my family that got stuck in the rubble and some people died that were my friends and stuff."

Chaffee says the project is also designed to keep the kids on the right path -- to keep them away from drugs and gangs and violence. So, the second pledge they had to make was -- to continue taking steps in the right direction, I promise to...

"I promised my grandmother that I will get good grades on my report card."

"I would help everyone else that needs help."

"I wanna explore things nobody's ever explored before."

"I wanna graduate college with my shoe."

8-year-old Aristides Graca promises to use his passion and energy to become a district attorney.

"Because that makes it more better to make the laws more strict for no violence."

The kids are bundles of nervous energy about this weekend's show...

"I wanna tell everyone how I'm feeling. and how are you feeling? Happy. How come you're happy? Because I'm on TV...laugh."

On TV and on canvas -- telling the world what they're all about.

For more information, log on to http://www.tightropeboston.blogspot.com

Tags: Ally Donnelly, inner city, Boston schoolchildren, John Marshall Elementary School
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