What is the injustice we are solving?
Student Voice aims to illustrate the state of schools today, as well as identify student-centric and student-created solutions to address the systemic inequity in the American education system. This inequity manifests itself as a disparity in access to opportunities and resources across schools nationwide, specifically as it relates to socioeconomically disadvantaged students and school districts. At Student Voice, we believe all students have the right to hold educational institutions accountable to them as partners in shaping their foundational experiences. Students must have a more powerful voice in order to combat the systemic inequity.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of Education inequity
we will address a lack of student voice in education
by equipping the next cohort of Student Voice Ambassadors with recording devices and print materials to assist them in grassroots organizing and activism related to ensuring that all schools provide equitable education.
Our Project Plan:
- See collaboration between students across the nation
- Manifest items in the Student Bill of Rights on local levels
- Student-led transformation of schools
We will increase my / our compassion by...
Being able to hear from the most marginalized student voices around the country first hand about their experiences in the education system.
How will you show courage?
It takes courage to stand up and advocate for change in a school system that has operated in the same way for over a century. Our team has been courageous in standing up for student voices in our communities and now we are working to provide the tools and support for other high school activists to do the same. We will be courageous in this important moment in the student movement. As students across the United States are fighting for their lives we will stand beside them and provide support as they transform their communities.
How will you collaborate with others?
The ambassador program exists to foster collaboration. Student Voice ambassadors collaborate to brainstorm ideas and provide feedback as they each implement change in their communities. Our team works with national partners to provide training, connections, and resources for our ambassadors.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
We know we our work is effective when our ambassadors are empowered to enact change in their schools and districts. As they inspire their communities, their friends and adult allies join the work. We know change is happening when we hear stories from our ambassadors, like Taylor from South Carolina. After writing a report with student data from her peers, Taylor is now working with her administration to address mental health in her school.
- reflect on the first year of the ambassadors program
- select a new cohort of ambassadors
- work with new partners to provides connections & resources
- plan a retreat for the ambassadors to kick of the second year of the program
- buy and distribute materials to ambassadors
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
We learned about the diversity of schools and experiences in the United States. Our ambassadors come from a wide-range of school communities. From rural to suburban, to urban, our experiences were dissimilar in some ways, such as funding, and alike in the lack of discussion around mental health. Our understanding of the state of schools grew through group conversations with the ambassador cohort. We have a new understanding of the issues and what resources are needed to address them.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
We saw an impact in the schools where our ambassadors attend. For example, Taylor hosted a mental health roundtable with her peers and created a report with her findings. She is now working with her administration and district office in Charleston, SC to better address mental health in her school. Allison hosted a mental health conference for students all over Kentucky.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
Directly we impacted 10 high schoolers who participated. The policy changes impacted many that were led at school and district levels by ambassadors. Five of the ambassadors testified at school board meeting for policy changes they would like to see. It is likely even higher than 1,000.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
We learned about the communities by hearing from the ambassadors then having them in-turn conduct roundtable discussions with their peers. The ambassadors created transcriptions and write-ups for the roundtables they hosted.
What did your team learn?
We learned that mental health and poor school climate is an issue that many students cite as a barrier to student engagement and deeper learning. Each roundtable spent a significant amount of time discussing the impact of mental health on student and their schools. Students reported wanting an increased voice in decision-making and being part of the effort to bringing better mental health resources to schools.
What challenges did your team overcome?
We had to rethink and adjust constantly. At first, we had monthly group goals and projects for the cohort. After the first half of the year, we had to re0evaluate and take a more individualized approach. We didn't always have 100% attendance with all 10 ambassadors for monthly calls so we worked to bring cool speakers and resources to encourage attendance.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
Yes! The reflection on the first year has been a team-wide effort. We recently brought on 5 new team members who will be a part of the strategic planning for year two.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
First, start with research! When I was first investigating education equity, I began by researching on the internet then asking decision-makers at my school, district and at the State House to sit down with me. There is power in being a young person when requesting a meeting, use it! Next, find people in your community on and offline to work with you. The people I work with are essential and have become my closest friends. Surrounding yourself with other peacemakers lightens the load and is energizing.
Year One comes to an EndStudent Voice just wrapped up programming for our inaugural cohort of ambassadors. Ten ambassadors from diverse communities from Portland, OR to Philadelphia, PA led projects and engaged in important dialogues about issues that plague the US education system and how young people can address them. Ambassadors testified to their school boards, hosted roundtable discussion and launched their own project to transform their schools.
Charleston, SC ambassador Taylor shared: “After watching the mental wellbeing of my peers decline over the past couple of years, the Student Voice Ambassador program gave me the confidence I needed to advocate for stronger mental health resources in my school community. With the support of the Student Voice team, I’ve strengthened mental health supports for students districtwide.”
We are working to reflect and think about what the second year of the program. Applications for the second cohort of students will go out this summer.