Photo courtesy of Dallas ISD


CityLab High School participated locally in the annual “Speak Up Speak Out” competition and will advance as a team to the state competition, which will be held on March 6 in Austin.

After identifying a problem in the Dallas community and presenting their solution to judges in January, the advancing team will move to the next part of the competition and continue developing their idea with a chance to win seed money.

CityLab is located in an urban area in downtown Dallas. The team’s project is titled “What We Do With Trash.” The students noticed that the beauty of downtown is often obscured by the trash and debris that occur from being in an urban area, especially an area with a high population of unhoused individuals. The project provides ideas for addressing this issue.


Advancing team members include:

  • Brian Villareal
  • Deontae’ Hardman-Smith
  • Victoria Montoya
  • Xavyer Walker
  • Jennifer Sayed


The theme that students will be designing for this year is “Innovative Ideas for Perpetuating Problems,” meaning that students dissect community issues by taking knowledge from our current strengths, experiences and technology to find new solutions that are sustainable and promote lasting change.

The competition started in 2002 as part of the Moody College of Communication at the UTA for 3rd through 12th grades.

The program is centered around civic education and turns young learners into storytellers through four focal points: group dynamics, problem-solving skills, research skills and storytelling.

Working together in small groups over the course of the fall semester, students research and identify a community problem that they solve using their diverse backgrounds and talents. According to their site, the competition gives students the opportunity to learn how to become active citizens and to become storytellers to share their message with community leaders.

“Speak Up Speak Out helped me realize I have to do more than just talk. I have to do something to make the change I want to see,” said Laila, a CityLab High School student.

To learn more about the competition, visit the Speak Up Speak Out website at and click “Speak Up Speak Out.”

Mollie Finch Belt is the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of The Dallas Examiner. She attended elementary school in Tuskegee, Ala.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Dallas, Texas. In 1961, she graduated from...

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