+
upworthy
More

He used to be homeless. Now he's a mayor. And he's only 28.

True
The CW

When you walk into the office of the 28-year-old mayor of Ithaca, New York, you get an instant taste of what it means to have a young person running your city.

An LED display mounted above the couch in his office flashes text messages that are sent directly to the mayor, Svante Myrick. The messages aren’t censored and are posted instantly for anyone within eyesight to read.


Photo by Blake Fall-Conroy, used with permission.

"Could you please pave James St.? The holes are really bad!" read one recent message. "Think about a bike system like citi bikes for Ithaca! Could promote green transport," another suggested.

Not all of them are so serious: "Stop staring at this sign and get back to work!"

The board is an installation created by local artist Blake Fall-Conroy, and all of the texts can also be read online. "It was always about open communication, by anyone at any time, about anything, whether that's good or bad," said Fall-Conroy.

Myrick came of age in the time of smartphones and Snapchat, so this sort of innovation fits him perfectly.

A selfie with city hall staff on Christmas Eve in 2014.

"It’s a new public square," Myrick said in an interview with Upworthy. "Some people feel very comfortable calling my office or writing a letter. Other people use Twitter and Facebook. It means more people have my ear. And, the more constituents you hear from, the better job you can do."

Myrick was elected mayor of Ithaca in 2011, making him the youngest mayor in the city’s history and the first African-American to hold the office.

Snow gear: an important part of the job. Photo via Facebook, used with permission.

One of his earliest decisions as mayor went viral. After selling his car, he put benches and planters in his mayoral parking spot and changed the sign to read "Reserved for Mayor and Friends." The day the sign was installed, someone snapped a picture of it, and by that evening, it appeared in an article on The Huffington Post. Four years later, some people still refer to him as "the parking space guy."

Myrick and his family after he won his first mayoral campaign. Photo via Facebook, used with permission.

Myrick hoped the gesture would signal that positive change was coming, that how the streets and sidewalks were treated would be improved. The idea reflects his vision of a more dense, more walkable city.

It’s a vision he shares with his generation. More young people are living in cities than 35 years ago, and most choose urban neighborhoods where they can walk or take public transportation. They want to be close to coffee shops, their offices, and restaurants. When surveyed, they say they want a home where they can feel like a part of a community and have a positive impact.

With Cornell's mascot, the Big Red Bear. Photo via Facebook, used with permission.

His youth helps him connect with young people in Ithaca, a college town characterized by the presence of Cornell University and Ithaca College, but he’s also very different from some of those constituents.

One of the things that sets Myrick apart from many of his peers is his childhood, which was spent in the throes of poverty.

After he was born, his mother came home from the hospital to find a red eviction notice tacked to the door. The family slipped in and out of homelessness, living in shelters and spending a few nights sleeping in the car.

Photo via Facebook, used with permission.

Eventually they moved to the one-stoplight town of Earlville, New York, to be close to Myrick’s grandparents.

Myrick, far right, with his siblings. Photo via Facebook, used with permission.

Myrick’s mother worked several jobs to raise him and his three siblings. Each month, she would write on the back of an envelope what she had made and what the bills were. Then the children would add what they wanted and together they would decide how to spend her paychecks.

"She brought us right into the household decision-making," Myrick said. "This is what we have and what we want. We could decide, 'This is the third notice from the gas company so we should pay that over the phone bill because they only sent one.'"

Growing up in poverty also sparked Myrick’s interest and passion for government.

Because his family relied on food stamps, free lunches, and other social programs, he became aware of what government was and why it was important at an early age. It’s also why he became a Democrat.

He explained his path to the party during a 2014 award acceptance speech at the JFK Library in Boston. "We are successful when we take care of each other, when we look out for each other," he said. To Myrick, the Democrats best embodied that message.

A 2013 selfie at the White House. Used with permission.

After learning of Myrick’s high SAT scores, one of his high school teachers encouraged him to take advanced placement classes and to consider Cornell. He was accepted in 2005.

He worked four jobs to help pay for college, including one gig as an assistant to a council member on Ithaca's city council. After the member announced he would be retiring, he encouraged Myrick to run for his seat, which he won in 2008, during his junior year of college.

On the council, Myrick focused on youth engagement and education but also discovered a passion for urban planning.

He admits it sounds boring, but he believes zoning dictates much of our lives — where people live, where they go to school, what kind of commute they’ll have. He created a new platform for his city council re-election and realized it was full of things only a mayor could do. So he ran for mayor in 2011.

After an aggressive campaign and lots of door-knocking, Myrick won the mayor’s seat.

In his first term, he closed a $3 million structural budget deficit, the largest the city had ever faced. He worked to rebuild the downtown pedestrian shopping area known as "the Commons" and fought to rezone the city to make it more walkable and include more mixed-use housing.

Via Facebook: "I'm not actually dressed up. I just wear my superman pajamas under my clothes every day ... they give me power." Image used with permission.

When Myrick first ran for mayor, people were skeptical about the impact he could have.

"I had people tell me at the door they weren’t voting for me because I was too young," he said. "They assume you don’t have a deep Rolodex, that you’re immature."

This past fall, Myrick won a second term with 89% of the vote.

The young mayor is frequently compared to President Barack Obama.

Both are biracial men raised by single white mothers. Like Obama, Myrick is considered a rising star in politics. As you might imagine, he’s frequently asked about his plan for the future.

"I don’t know what comes next," said Myrick. "I’m excited to do this for four more years. You become qualified to run for state offices at 30. I still have a couple of years to think about it."

Photo via Facebook, used with permission.

As for the comparisons to the president, Myrick is flattered. He says Obama is an "inspiration," and Myrick aspires to achieve the commander-in-chief’s cool, calm demeanor. While he respects Obama deeply, Myrick says his personality more closely mirrors another top-ranking Democrat.

"I’m more Joe Biden," he says. "I grew up in a place like Scranton, hardscrabble, rural, fairly conservative."

Perhaps most importantly in the political space, Myrick also shares the vice president’s notorious loquaciousness: "If you get me talking, it’s hard to get me to stop."

Watch Mayor Svante Myrick share what he's learned in the Upworthy Original video below:

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?

Keep ReadingShow less
Modern Families

‘Hard pill to swallow’: Mom shares why some adult children don’t talk to their parents

"How your kids treat you when they are no longer in need of food and shelter, is a direct reflection of how you made them feel when they needed you to survive."

Parent and child deal with the pain of estrangement.

Even though humans are biologically hard-wired to form strong attachments to our parents, in many cases, these relationships become estranged as the children age. A recent poll found that nearly 1 in 4 adults are estranged from their families.

Six percent are estranged from their mothers and 26% have no contact with their fathers. It’s believed that these days, more children are comfortable distancing themselves from their parents because it’s good for their mental health.

“I think it relates to this new desire to have healthy relationships,” Rin Reczek, a sociology professor at the Ohio State University, said, according to The Hill. “There might be some cultural shifts around people being allowed to choose who is in your family. And that can include not choosing to have the person who raised you be in your family.”

Keep ReadingShow less

It's rare enough to capture one antler being shed

For those not well versed in moose facts, the shedding of antlers is normally a fairly lengthy process. It happens only once a year after mating season and usually consists of a moose losing one antler at a time.

It’s incredibly rare for a bull moose to lose both at the same time—and even more rare that someone would actually catch it on film.

That’s why shed hunter (yes, that’s a real term) and woodsman Derek Burgoyne calls his footage of the phenomenon a “one-in-a-million” shot.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Loretta Lynn's granddaughter wows 'American Idol' judges with raw original song

Emmy Russell's original song "Skinny," featuring lyrics about body image and eating disorders, nearly brought everyone to tears.

America Idol/Youtube, Promotional image of Loretta Lynn/Wikipedia

Emmy Russell (left) and her grandmother Loretta Lynn (right)

Emmy Russell, granddaughter of country music icon Loretta Lynn, proved that she was an artist in her own right during a recent episode of “American Idol.”

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Nashville auditioned in front of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan during the show's Feb. 25 episode, during which she opened up about wanting to not live in her grandmother’s shadow.

"She's one of the biggest country music singers of all time, but to me she's just Grandma," she said, adding "I think I am a little timid, and I think it is because I want to own my voice. That's why I want to challenge myself and come out here."

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Jimmy Fallon asked his viewers if they've ever been caught red-handed. Here are 15 of the best responses.

You can’t lie about it, you can’t take it back, all you can do is pray for forgiveness.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images


There is nothing worse than being caught in the act when you're up to no good. You can't lie about it, you can't take it back, all you can do is pray for forgiveness.

"Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon asked his viewers if they had ever been caught red-handed and their responses on Twitter were hilarious.

Here are 15 of the funniest and/or most embarrassing Tweets.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Her mother doesn't get why she's depressed. So she explains the best way she knows how.

Sabrina Benaim eloquently describes what it's like to be depressed.

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother."

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother" is pretty powerful on its own.

But, in it, her mother exhibits some of the most common misconceptions about depression, and I'd like to point out three of them here.
Keep ReadingShow less