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Teens turn lens on 'shocking' poverty

Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News

In their film, Troy students Jason Ji, left, and Frank Boudon make the case that the nation's poverty crisis could be solved by reforming education.

By Lou Dubois, NBC News

What a difference 20 miles makes.

In Detroit, the median household income is $27,862, and 57 percent of the children live below the poverty line.

Roughly 20 miles to the north is the affluent suburb of Troy, Mich., where the median household income is almost $117,000, and nearly all high school graduates go on to college. Money Magazine has named Troy, with its great safety record and stellar community sports programs, one of the best small cities in America.

Frank Boudon and Jason Ji are sophomores at Troy High School who are getting national attention for their unique look at poverty, which they call the most pressing issue facing this country.

“While we may be just kids,” Ji told NBC News, “we are deeply aware of the issues that impact our surrounding communities. Living in metro Detroit has exposed us to the tragedy of poverty. It is shocking to see the number of peers and young children living in poverty.”

Their short film, “Poverty: America’s Untold Crisis,” was among the top finishers in a C-Span contest that drew nearly 2,000 submissions from students nationwide.

“At the most basic level,” Boudon added, “I, like the majority of humans, hate to watch others suffer. Drawing attention to the issue of poverty was a way to promote interest and spur action for the cause. “

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Editor's note: An earlier version of the story misidentified one of the students as Jason Li.