On November 19, 2014, President Obama launched the ConnectEd initiative to support digital learning, and I was part of the ceremony.

The ConnectEd initiative is a collaborative partnership between the White House, private businesses and schools across the country aiming to connect 99 percent of students to high speed wireless and broadband Internet over the next five years. The initiative stems entirely from student and educator demands, and the Obama Administration is working closely with both groups to ensure its optimal success.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee,” Obama said at the ceremony, “the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.”

For part of the event, President Obama and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz spoke to student journalists from around the country, including myself. One of the most interesting facts I gained from speaking with Muñoz was that that less than 40 percent of public schools in America have high-speed internet access in their classrooms, which was astonishing to hear. Coming from a district with broadband Internet, I assumed most other schools were the same, but I was wrong. Muñoz believes that providing students with access to technology will drive innovation and allow for individualization, leading to more effective learning.

Although our exchanges were brief, Muñoz seemed very interested in us, and asked many questions about our thoughts on ConnectEd and American education.

After meeting with Muñoz, the other students and I went to the Red Room to meet President Obama, but stumbled across the Assistant Secretary of Education, Deborah Delisle, along the way. Delisle personally interacted with each of us and asked about our experiences with technology in schools. Every conversation was unique and showed her interest in hearing from students directly.

Like Muñoz, the president was very excited to meet with us and said it was crucial for us to be at the ConnectEd event. In fact, everyone I met that day seemed genuinely interested in what students had to say about our educational experiences and stressed the importance of us being there.

At the event, I learned that the first step of the ConnectEd initiative is the Future Ready pledge, which was signed by superintendents from across the country that day. Obama says he is confident that his administration will be able to connect 99 percent of schools and students to high speed Internet, I am weary about the long term nature of the project and worry it will get lost in the shuffle due to the possible party shift in coming years. Nonetheless, however, I do look forward to watching ConnectEd unfold around the country and think it is important for the future of education.

One thing is for sure: “Every child deserves a shot at a world-class education,” Obama said. I think it’s time for students to play a role in shaping that world-class education, and Student Voice, ConnectEd and the Future Ready initiative are making that possible.

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An increasing amount of schools are requiring students to complete an internship for graduation, and it seems as if everyone has advice on how to find the perfect internship. Sometimes, however, it feels like no matter how many resume revisions you make, or how long you practice for an interview, you’re still nowhere closer to the internship of your dreams.

While getting lost in all the details of an internship search is easy, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the big picture. Here are five habits that can ensure your attitude, intentions, and actions are all working together to land you a fulfilling internship.

Understand yourself

The first hurdle you have to jump in searching for an internship is understanding what you are looking for. Opportunities for experiential learning exist everywhere, and it takes some narrowing down to find the right one. Patrick Sullivan, Associate Director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, recommends, “instead of saying, ‘I want an internship’, consider developing a goal that incorporates your skills and interests. Working towards a goal [like] that is more … realistic and more manageable.”

Maintain an open mind

Even after narrowing you’re search, it’s still important to consider other possibilities. According to Tara Shishmanian, a senior who is majoring in business communication at Stevenson University and who has completed four internships, “Even if somebody mentions something that doesn’t sound interesting, I’ll still research it, because you never know where it could lead.” The point here is that you should learn as much as you can about an opportunity before pursuing or dismissing it. This extra effort could make the difference in finding an internship that fits your goals and needs.

Don’t go it alone

Always recognize the social side of any organization you’re applying to. Don’t discount the importance of talking to and learning from people; it’s an everyday practice that can be a deciding factor in finding and landing a position. Jeff McGuire from Rowan University’s Career Management Center says, “Knowing where to turn when you need something is just as important as having what you need in the first place. If resourcefulness is a measure of value, then knowing where to turn might even be more useful than possessing the knowledge first hand.”

End on a high note

As your internship comes to a close, go out with the same intensity you had coming in. “Finish at a sprint; don’t coast to the end. Even if you’re finished with your summer project, walk around and volunteer to help anyone else,” Bob Bruner, dean of business administration at the University of Virginia, advises. This is your chance to leave a good last impression with your employer – you don’t want to be known as the lazy intern who gave up during the last week. Also be sure to maintain the connections you’ve made with your coworkers; they may be the people helping you get your next internship.

Reflect

Lastly, remember to take something from each opportunity that comes your way. Reflecting on internship experiences will give you an idea of what you’ve accomplished, the challenges you faced, how you overcame these challenges and, most importantly, how all these factors will translate into your professional life in the future. “So many people get caught up in leaving their internship that they don’t take the time to reflect on their experience, their likes and dislikes, or their transferable skills,” says Jen Wheeler, Experiential Learning Coordinator at Stevenson University.

Conventional internship search strategies focusing on interviews and resumes are important, but a broader shift in attitude is going to make a more meaningful difference. Combined with standard advice, following these five steps will have you interning in the perfect place.

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In 2012, researchers Paul Loprinzi and Bradley Cardinal conducted a national study of more than 1,000 adults to see if regular physical activity differed between men and women. The results showed women, on average, get 40 percent less daily exercise than men.

In the same year, researchers from Northwestern University published a study in which they analyzed health and lifestyle data of 3,000 adults collected over a 20-year period. The study found that participants who had made healthy lifestyle choices early in their life were more likely to continue these choices throughout the following decades and remain at low risk for heart disease.

Combined, these studies indicate a trend: beginning at a young age, when health and fitness choices matter most, women aren’t getting enough exercise. It is this trend that Elisabeth Tavierne is fighting against.

Tavierne, an exercise science graduate from Ohio State University, is the founder and president of Changing Health, Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls, or CHAARG. As the organization’s name suggests, CHAARG’s mission is to change how college-aged women view and achieve fitness.

“Girls have this mindset that if they do cardio two to three hours, five days a week, they’ll get this healthy [lifestyle] they’re looking for,” Claudia Pagan, a sophomore journalism major at the University of Maryland and founder of the university’s CHAARG chapter, said.

“What we do is liberate girls from the elliptical,” Pagan added. “We want to show girls that being healthy requires a lot of things. You have to do a variety of workouts to achieve what you want, it’s not just cardio and a limited amount of food.”

CHAARG offers classes ranging from yoga to Zumba to PILOXING – a cross between Pilates and boxing – to help its members find activities they enjoy. Members also have access to instructors largely unavailable to college students. According to Pagan, a Nike trainer is scheduled to lead Maryland’s CHAARG chapter through boot camp exercises for the fall 2014 semester.

“All the instructors we work with are so great, and they have modifications for each girl so any girl can be a part of this organization,” said senior pharmacy major Danielle Carroll, who started the University of Toledo CHAARG chapter. “CHAARG is not meant for one type of girl, it’s meant for every girl out there.”

But in order to reach “every girl out there,” CHAARG must expand – a process that is already happening. The organization currently has more than 2,000 members across 14 universities, and is planning to add six new chapters by January, Tavierne said in an email.

Another challenge for CHAARG is expanding the program so it doesn’t solely focus on improving physical wellbeing, but catalyzes action for mental health, personal confidence and women support groups as well.

“People see the fitness side right from the beginning, but they don’t see how deep the community goes and how involved everyone is,” Pagan said. “CHAARG isn’t a sorority, but it has that sorority-type of feel to it.”

By creating this sorority-like atmosphere, CHAARG falls in line with a common recommendation among health professionals –working with friends to motivate exercise. Brittani Rettig, a certified group fitness instructor and manager of her own nationally recognized fitness blog GRIT by Brit, is one such professional.

“With the whole CHAARG initiative, I think it’s great and I think they should continue to make it about having fun,” Rettig said. “The only way change really happens is when people find some sort of activity that they enjoy.”

And while CHAARG members are benefitting physically from new and fun workouts, students really enjoy the organization’s ability to teach young women how to live overall better lives.

“I didn’t think how CHAARG could impact me personally; I didn’t think about how I would grow as an individual,” Pagan said. “I could get up in front of people and tell that what I’m so passionate about. It helped me to be more confident, and to know what I want and go for it.”

“CHAARG is reforming education outside of the classroom,” Pagan added. “With our voice, we’re breaking a stereotype and redefining what being healthy and being fit really means.”

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A few weeks ago, I sat on an airplane with my newest Amazon purchase open on my lap: Adam Braun’s Promise of a Pencil. Braun’s story was, without a doubt, incredible. He had traveled for a semester at sea and founded the global education organization “Pencils for Promise” at the tender age of 24, eventually leaving his job at Bain and Company in an epic saga of social entrepreneurial struggle. As I finished the last page, I was propelled into a bit of an epiphany. Here I was, close to Adam’s age. I was still young, had all the resources Adam had when he started his journey, and had a similar desire to change the world. So what was stopping me? In fact, what stops most of us from changing the world at such a young age?

I thought back to early college when I was in a phase where all I wanted to do was start a business. I remember relegating all my other career options in favor of this daring and random pursuit of entrepreneurship. The more I lamented on how to achieve results, the more I realized that I was stockpiling on one toxic resource: the “excuse”. I’m not old enough. I don’t have enough time right now. This homework isn’t doing itself. I’m not qualified enough. I don’t have enough money right now. My idea isn’t new enough. Sunday football is on. I don’t know anything about technology. I don’t know nearly enough people. I’ll just work for a few years, save up money, re-evaluate life, and then become an entrepreneur. It’s too much to learn. The list went on and on.

Our mind will believe anything we tell it. Most of the time, the excuses and reasons for procrastination alone will preclude us from doing something we feel strongly about. Ignoring the problem seems to be easier than encountering the consequences or worst case scenarios. But how do we overcome these barriers we place on ourselves? How do some people make it while others don’t?

This is where I arrived after some pondering. Part of it is perspective. “Changing the world” can sound so daunting. The idea of starting a venture and putting your entire livelihood around it can sound daunting as well. We have to start with our own personal definition of “changing the world”. We don’t always need to quit our day job. People who volunteer change the world. People who put together book drives and food recovery programs change the world. People who donate money online to causes change the world. Of course, people who start multi-national non-profits change the world too. What kind of impact do we want to make in the long-run? We don’t have to make it all at once. While thinking big is encouraged, when we think too big that we ignore pragmatism and drive ourselves into an unreachable dream, that’s when most of us tend to quit.

Second, we have to find a reason to fix everything holding us back. Money. The internet has enabled new and wild ways to fundraise. Adam Braun only started out with $25 when starting his social venture. Too much competition. Find an area that drives you and work with other collaborators in that area. We spend too much time on competition and finding that “unique idea that nobody has ever thought of in the history of ever”. Not unique enough. Changing the world doesn’t have to start with a ground-breaking idea or re-inventing the wheel. There are plenty of non-profits out there who do the same exact thing. Qualifications. The only qualification we really need is passion. It costs a lot less than a graduate degree and a thousand certifications. We have to start ignoring the guy that tells us that we need to be old and rich to be a philanthropist. If you have a passion now, don’t risk letting it rot.

Finally, we have to start connecting. Read blogs from successful young entrepreneurs. Read autobiographies from the founders of inspiring organizations we respect. Meet young people in person. Follow them on twitter. Keep learning. I follow many people my age and younger and I can always count of them for some of the most refreshing professional perspectives I get on a daily basis. It can only benefit us to use these stories as a template that age is nothing when it comes to world change.

This all puts us in a position for the hardest part: to start executing. “Zak Malamed, Student Voice Founder, once wrote, “The most disrespectful thing you can say to young people is, “you are the leaders of tomorrow.” This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where young people are stigmatized to believe that there is a minimum age for being capable of changing the world.” Let’s stop succumbing to the stigma and change the paradigm for youth and real, tangible change. We don’t have to find the next “Pencils for Promise” but just create something that’s a reflection of a real, raw dedication towards a cause. Why not us?

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Here’s something no one tells you about college: once you’ve decided to go, there’s a lot of changes you’ll need to adapt to. This summer I was a communications intern at a research institute about five miles from my university. During my lunch breaks, I frequently drove through the main campus en route to my desired eatery, and often saw groups of prospective freshmen touring the campus.

Each time I saw these groups, I would think back to all the advice I was given before starting college, some of which was really helpful.

However, the majority of the tips I received came from either my parents’ friends who went to college in the ‘70s and ‘80s, or from Internet listicles that told me to make college “the best four years of my life,” but didn’t explain how.

In an effort to create a better list of what college freshmen should know before move-in day, I cast a net out on social media and asked my friends and followers to tell me about the best college tips they received.

Here is what I found:

1. Decide what is and isn’t important

One thing college will do to you is make you realize there aren’t enough hours in the day. And while everyone is going to tell you to “get involved with as many things as possible,” the truth is that it’s just not feasible.

When it comes to your course load, extracurricular activities, work, new friends you’re meeting, and old friends you want to keep, you’re going to have to decide where each falls on your priority list.

“The best advice someone ever gave me as a freshman was … that is was okay to be selfish and to make decisions that are going to make me the best version of myself, so that I can then be there for other people.” – Hannah Currens, junior geography major at Macalester College.

2. Make your own decisions, and live by them

Aside from a few meetings with your academic advisor, there isn’t anyone in college telling you what decisions to make. That means nobody from your high school will be pressuring you to take the same classes as them and definitely no parents to answer to about each and every grade you receive (though, if Mom and Dad are paying for your college, it’s probably a bad idea to anger them by getting Ds in your GenEds). That said, it’s up to you to decide if it’s a good idea to go to the frat party instead of study, or to skip your weekend readings and risk being unprepared for class. Again, mistakes are going to happen, but they’re forgivable as long as you can learn from them.

“It’s important to have fun in college, if you don’t you’ll go insane, but I’ve seen way too many people fail classes simply because they never go.” – Karie Langowski, junior biology and philosophy double major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

3. Lose yourself

Mahatma Gandhi once said “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” And, in classic college fashion, I’m going to ignore part of this quote to emphasize the point I’m trying to make. College is one of most useful, if not the most useful experience in determining who you are. In college you discover what you enjoy learning, what people you want to surround yourself with, what values and morals you have, what world views you believe in, and what you stand for.

Do things you never thought you would and lose yourself in things that make you happy.

“Before coming to college I never saw myself joining Greek life. But after seeing how close-knit, involved and welcoming the Greek community was, I joined and would never go back on my decision.” – Greg Donitzen, sophomore pre-middle school education major at Towson University.

4. You’re going to fail

Remember in high school how, if you didn’t do so hot on a test, it wasn’t the end of the world because there were always more exams, projects and assignments to rebound your grade? Well, spoiler alert: college isn’t like that. There isn’t much, if any, classwork, the homework is five times harder and longer than it ever was in high school, and, honestly, neither projects nor homework assignments really matter when tests count for 70 percent of your final grade (and there’s only three throughout the semester).

So whether it’s organic chemistry, calculus or the token freshman writing class, there’s going to be a time when you’re not doing well and your grades reflect that. Such a setback doesn’t mean you’re stupid or that the professor’s a jerk (though the latter might be true). Take from this one of the truest things you can learn in college: you’re going to fail, but you’re going to be okay. Pick yourself up, ask for help, and kick the crap out of the next assignment.

“I’m still learning how to fail gracefully, but I have realized failure is one thing for which high school never prepared me.” – Litty Cutchin, junior aerospace engineering major at University of Maryland.

5. You are unique, but you’re not alone

Have you ever been talking to a close friend and divulged a world view or experience that you think is completely out of the ordinary or totally unique to you and your life, only to find that your friend shares the exact same view or experience? That’s how being a college freshman is. Do you really think you’re the only one apprehensive to use the communal showers? You’re not. Do you think you’re the only one who doesn’t like the mean girls at the end of the hall? Nope, they’re rude to everyone.

The bottom line is this: while you are new, so is everyone else, and you and your fellow newbies have much more in common than you think. Don’t be afraid to talk to people about your interests and secret hobbies or how much you hate icebreakers—you may be surprised at the results.

“… Even though you may feel alone, just know everyone else is facing the same struggles whether it’s apparent or not.” – Dani Skinner, sophomore communication studies major at Grove City College.

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Follow our releases of Student Voice in a Box here: www.stuvoice.org/box

It’s been an exciting two years at Student Voice. Our team has been hard at work at creating a global conversation about empowering students, involving them in the decisions that affect their lives, and helping them take control of their education.

Earlier this year, we decided it was time to begin creating tangible resources for students and teachers to use. The conversation about student voices is stronger than it has ever been; now it needs some support from tangible resources that folks can use in their daily lives and share with each other. Student Voice in a Box is our first step in this direction.

 

Student Voice in a Box is a toolkit for teachers to use in their classrooms. Our team has been hard at work collecting stories from students and educators about their student voice experiences in the classroom. Their stories paired with the classroom resources, online tools, and project ideas.

 

Student Voice in a Box will be released in six bite-size installations over the course of six weeks. Each installation will include two teacher interviews, one student interview, one long-form classroom project, and an assortment of short-form tips and tricks. The first installation will be released on the Student Voice website next Monday, August 4th.
Follow our releases of Student Voice in a Box here: www.stuvoice.org/box
You can sign up to receive Student Voice in a Box in your email here: http://eepurl.com/ZUlof
You can learn more about Student Voice in a Box here: http://stuvoice.org/student-voice-live/for-teachers/box/

 

We look forward to sharing this with you and seeing what you think.

 

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