The goal of our education system is to educate and prepare our students for life, citizenship, college, career, and more. Students know better than anyone what’s working in the classroom— and what’s not. To rethink high school and provide a high-quality education for all students, we must encourage student advocacy and listen to and amplify the voices of students.
This week, we’re focusing on youth voice and choice, one of the XQ design principles. By giving students the opportunities to build their identities as learners and develop the capacity for agency, we help them create their paths to success. In this issue, we compiled five examples of how students use their voices to share their high school experiences and create change in their communities.
1. LISTEN Students Speak Out
Students talk about civic engagement and what it really means.
Why it matters: For many, civic engagement is often associated with politics and elections, but we often forget that civic engagement encompasses so much more. At its core, civics is about empowering anyone to make a difference in their community.
High school student Simone St. Pierre Nelson spoke to Balqies Mohamed, a youth leader and organizer for Portland Empowered, about civic engagement within their school communities. Balqies and other students offered some tips for how students can get involved:
Listen to the full interview and teacher guide!
2. REFINE Students on School During the Pandemic
After months of remote and hybrid learning, students identify common problems and share how their schools can better meet their needs during the pandemic.
Why it matters: COVID-19 school closures threw educators and students a curveball. A survey of 20,000 students reported that only 39% of students said they learned a lot every day while learning remotely.
What’s working for students? What isn’t working? What changes do they want to see? Here are their insights:
Image Credit: Magdalena Slapik for The Hechinger Report
3. EXPERIENE A Look at Life Outside High School
This teenager was embarrassed that her family collected cans, but she now admires their hard work.
Why it matters: From sunup to sundown, Jessica’s parents collected cans and bottles for a living. After trying to keep it a secret for years, she finally shared her story in an essay. Thanks to the support of her peers, Jessica’s attitude about her family’s work changed entirely. She understands that her parents’ can collecting:
Extra credit: My Parents Collect Bottles for a Living
4. PERSEVERE Students Balance Virtual Classes and Jobs
These teens balance long work hours and virtual classes to help their families get by during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why it matters: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are facing income loss and financial stress. Many teens across the country are stepping up and taking on extra work hours (even up to 40 hours a week) to help support their families— while attending their online classes.
Here are just a few of their stories:
“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do for your family.”
Image Credit: Kashish Bastola
5. CHANGE Student Activists Demand Anti-Racist Education
Students are making their voices heard. They are articulating the changes they want to see in their classrooms and schools.
Why it matters: Amid nationwide protests against racial injustice, students across the country are petitioning their local governments and school boards to implement curriculum changes. Students are now urging districts to consider curricular materials that are actively anti-racist & demonstrate diverse representation.
Major curriculum changes can be tricky, so students are looking to start smaller to create a gradual impact with:
Here’s how students can get involved:
Image Credit: Alliyah Logan
XQ X-TRA Let’s talk about the arts!
Arts education is vital for students. Art plays a huge role in building student voice by helping students learn to express emotions and voice issues close to their hearts.
This is why we created our first XQ Challenge centering on the intermingling of Music and Activism. Students learned from hip hop and R&B quartet SOL Development and created an original song or lyric that touches on issues important to them. Challenges submissions are closed, and now it’s time to listen and vote!
Don’t forget to create an account for our new digital content site and online community, Rethink Together. Here, you’ll find feature articles, videos, a discussion forum, student challenges, and more!