Solvay High School freshman Ana-Rachel Richardson had already been performing with the Media Unit for nearly two years when she decided to "try something a little different," and host the weekly public-access show Rough Times Live, produced by and for teens.
Like many other facets of the Unit -- running a camera, developing choreography, blocking a performance -- Ana-Rachel had little experience interviewing guests and hosting a show. But that was part of the appeal. So last November she jumped at the chance to host an episode, and ended up playing a role in solving a murder.
"I knew it would have long-term effects," Ana-Rachel said of the Unit's style of tackling tough, realistic issues like gang violence and racism among teens. "But I never thought it would be helping someone solve a murder."
Ana-Rachel sat down with Angelik Mitchell, whose 20-year-old son Anthony Lewis was stabbed to death in August 2009, district attorney William Fitzpatrick and then-deputy chief of Syracuse police Frank Fowler to discuss Lewis' murder and teen violence in Syracuse.
The teen remembered asking Mitchell if she thought participating in a show centered around teen violence would personally help her with the grieving process, and expecting a very different answer from the one she received.
"She said, 'no, what will help me is getting murderers off the street,'" Ana-rachel said. By the end of the show, Mitchell and the police had exchanged information; in February the police charged Mizrain Trinidad-Ayala, 23, with the killing.
Not bad for a first-time host.
Ana-rachel said she heard about the Media Unit through a friend and decided to check out the performing aspect of it; she's always had a passion for acting and singing.
But since joining at age 12, she has been able to play a variety of roles and try her hand at the technical side of the media.