Svante Myrick: Ithaca’s Inspiring Change Agent
His journey–from a child on food stamps to city mayor at 24–has become famous. When President Obama heard it, he had to meet the young man. It’s not a story you hear every day, but that’s what makes Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick special.
He and his family sometimes lived in homeless shelters and depended on food stamps to eat. At one point, their car was home. That experience taught Svante Myrick to recognize every single opportunity that came his way.
He jumped at every one, and eventually, his perseverance and drive earned him a scholarship at one of the best universities in the US.
As a student at Cornell University, he fell in love with the city of Ithaca. Two years after graduation, he ran for, and was elected mayor of the city of 30,000 at just 24 years old.
More than most, Mayor Myrick understands the importance of programs like those that helped him; he works every day to ensure his government runs and funds programs that help young people. He’s proud of those who take the opportunities to become successful, and he struggles with the people who don’t.
“Ithaca has more social services than most. We have great youth programs, job training programs,” he says. “But a large frustration for us is that we offer these programs and then we see young people struggling. All you have to do is meet us. Enroll in the programs and work with us, and we can make it work for you.”
The beauty behind Mayor Myrick’s success isn’t his life story. It only begins there. During his time in office, he has distinguished himself as an active member of the community he leads.
“You could always see him (Mayor Myrick) around town,” says Carly Halpin, who studied at Ithaca College for four years. “Not only was he visible, but he was approachable and personable. What else would you want in a mayor?”
With a mayor that is hard-working (often working 80 hours a week), transparent, and dedicated to the city he lives in, the youth of Ithaca don’t need to look far to find an inspiring role model, but he wants people to understand that his ongoing story is a complex one.
Mayor Myrick downplays his successes and makes it clear he is not a “self made man.” Instead—and more appropriate to his role as an elected official, he thinks of himself as a “community made man.” That’s the story of what he’s helping to build. A community which helps raise and educate its youth right in Ithaca. A community lucky to have Svante Myrick leading the way.