When schools are depicted in media, the student experience is covered between the hours of 8 and 3. We think of schools as forums for common experiences in the same physical building. In actuality, school is less of a common experience and more of a nexus of the vastly different life experiences students bring to it. Some students will arrive at school preoccupied with anxieties of a changing climate and pervasive gun violence, while others are focused solely on academics, some on arts and sports, and still others focused on part-time jobs followed by long nights of homework.
The kaleidoscope of students’ out-of-school experiences and priorities greatly influences their in-school perspective. Unfortunately, these illuminating stories are missing in the education discourse. To remedy this, Student Voice launched its Journalism Fellowship in 2018. We mentored fourteen students over seven months to elaborate on their out-of-school stories and evaluate themselves, their schools, and the national education system against the Student Bill of Rights.
In short, the stories were astounding. We learned about the gender imbalance in high school wrestling, the gaps in sex education, and the intense pressures of the college admissions process. These fellows breathed life into the Student Bill of Rights, presenting how they engaged with access & affordability, free expression, and civic participation on a daily basis.
Now, as we enter the 2019–2020 school year, Student Voice is proud to introduce you to the second cohort of Journalism Fellows. These eighteen students represent nearly every facet of the American secondary education experience: attending public, private, magnet, and homeschools in fifteen states. They will tell the stories of students often unheard, communities often overlooked, and systemic issues often minimized. Above all, their stories will offer you, reader, a look into the holistic student experience: one that extends beyond the school building and into school boards, community centers, and Washington D.C. We hope you’ll join us on this incredible journey.
Christopher Maximos and Taylor Kahn-Perry
Student Voice Journalism Fellowship Coordinators
Emily Bach | Oakton, Virginia | Oakton High School
Emily is a journalist and creator with a passion for youth voices. She tends to cover women’s issues, mental health, and the stories of individuals in her community. A lover of all things storytelling, Emily creates work across all genres of journalism, from podcasts to written stories. When not creating, she can probably be found exploring Washington, DC, the city she loves and lives in, or chatting with the baristas at her favorite local coffee shop.
Alexis Chisom | Lee, Massachusetts | Homeschool
Alexis Chisom is the founder and writer of the blog Alexis Chisom Discovering Wellness + Health. To find her topics, she follows health and wellness news. Then, she picks an area to research by attending presentations at universities, scrounging around the internet, and being her own personal guinea pig. Having discovered her enthusiasm for wellness at a young age, she became a certified yoga instructor at the age of 15. Lots of today’s teens and young people are stressed and the mental health of our society is deteriorating. Alexis knows that life is more enjoyable when wellness is factored into daily life and she hopes to spread health to teens and other people who may not know how to live their best lives. She is a New England girl who can often be found curled up with her cat and a book, working on her photography skills, or baking cookies for her family and friends.
Kristen D’Souza | Rochester, Michigan | Rochester High School
Kristen D’Souza is a high school senior from Rochester, Michigan. A believer in the power of young voices, she writes and edits for her school newspaper. She hopes to pursue journalism as a career. She is passionate about social equity, and works with community organizations in the city of Detroit. In her free time, she enjoys singing, drawing, and reading anything in front of her.
Mina Freeburg | Farmington, Minnesota | Farmington High School
Mina Freeburg is a junior at Farmington High School in Minnesota. Born on a U.S. Naval Base in Okinawa, Mina’s travels as a child informed her views of society’s inequalities and inspired her to seek social change. Outside of Student Voice, Mina is the National Director of Publicity and Communications for Women in STEM, an international organization that empowers young women pursuing STEM through multivariable initiatives. In addition, Mina is the Executive Director of March for Science Minnesota, the founder Teach[able], a student-lead movement working to end one-size-fits-all standardized education, and the Minnesota Creative Director of Students for Education Reform, a non-profit organization that works to close the K-12 achievement gap. Mina has a strong passion for all things political, art, public address, and various STEM practices, participating in Policy Debate, Speech, Student Council, Business Professionals of America and others. Furthermore, she participates in STEM academically through FRC (Team 2987), Science Olympiad, and Math Team. Thus, Mina will only continue to advance into her passion as past and future experience remain to sculpt her into the unapologetic and courageous individual that she is to this day.
Asher Gladstone | Syosset, New York | Syosset High School
Asher has loved storytelling in some capacity since before he knew how to spell. He has been published in his school’s literary magazine and newspaper. In addition, Asher is president of the speech and debate team, specializing as captain of Extemporaneous Speaking. He is also senior class president and plays guitar in the jazz band. Outside of school, Asher also enjoys history, politics, and reading Kurt Vonnegut novels.
Endiya Griffin | San Diego, California | San Diego Met High School
Endiya Griffin is a student leader who works to empower underserved youth whilst fulfilling her passions for art, social justice, and education. Griffin believes that art has the transformative power to change perceptions and break down barriers by meeting viewers where they are. As a student advocate, she also knows that, by investing in young lives and minds, we equip ourselves to create the future we want to see. She has supported this belief through advocacy work with local organizations such as the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, The AjA Project, and KPBS. Griffin has also utilized platforms such as TED and the Big Picture learning to spread her message of empowerment. Her avid love for storytelling has been displayed through her journalistic work published by NPR’s YR Media, Teen Vogue, and the San Diego Voyager. As a senior in high school, she is currently working towards an Associate’s Degree in sociology from San Diego Mesa College and will receive her AA concurrently with her high school diploma. After high school, she plans to earn a social justice-based journalism degree at a four-year institution and go on to be an ethnographic journalist.
Shreya Joshi | The Woodlands, Texas | The Woodlands High School
Shreya is a senior at The Woodlands High School in Texas, but she’s lived all over the country. She’s incredibly active in speech and debate at both her school and on a national level, which has greatly increased her love of communication, turning her former STEM mind into a die-hard liberal arts student. Her passions include napping, Netflix and telling stories. She firmly believes in the power of stories to affect change in the world, and so spends her time listening to them and telling them. She also spends her free time fundraising for local rehab centers, working on various campaigns, and baking brownies. It isn’t easy to tell, but she’s incredibly short, and will deny her brother is taller than her if asked.
Sinan Kassim | Parkland, Florida | NSU University School
I am a sophomore at NSU University School who is incredibly involved in community action and speech & debate. As an extemporaneous speaker, I’ve reached the quarterfinal rounds at the Harvard University and Emory University tournaments. I served as my town’s youth mayor and am the President of the Kassim Legacy Foundation. Every day, I wake up excited to empower, inspire, and motivate. My life purpose is to leave a lasting legacy that can sustain itself for generations. I feel driven and extremely passionate to serve my local, national, and global community. Spreading light, love, and positivity is my special way of contributing to society.
Scott Lee | Los Angeles, California | North Hollywood High School
Scott Lee is a native Angeleno on the lookout for what he can do for his hometown community. Having been raised in different parts of the city, it opened his eyes to the distinct issues that each community faces. Although he may not live in those areas anymore, the memories and friends made there fuel him to figure out creative solutions to some of Los Angeles’ greatest problems. The problems that he would like to solve the most, however, are those of student rights in the city. Recognizing the things youth can do, he wants for every student to be able to have a say now rather than several years later.
Ashley Lin | Vancouver, Washington | Union High School
Ashley is a student at Union High School in Vancouver, WA, on a mission to reimagine education through entrepreneurship and edtech through the lens of cross-cultural collaboration, civic power, and community journalism. She’s constantly thinking about the intersections between school inequality, power distribution, diversity/inclusion, global education, and the future of work — and she is constantly seeking candid conversations and new perspectives. Ashley has served as a U.S. Youth Ambassador to Uruguay, and is the Founder & CEO of Project Exchange, a youth-led, 501c3 nonprofit increasing cross-cultural learning experiences for high school & college students around the globe through digital solutions. When she’s not waving her hands animatedly while talking about education and grassroots organizing, Ashley enjoys traveling off the beaten path for good food, sunsets, stories, and people.
Catherine Liu | Sioux Falls, South Dakota | Washington High School
Catherine is in the class of 2021 at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In school, she is primarily involved in speech and debate. Outside of school, she works as a general math and reading tutor and as a live streamer for AP Chemistry. Her hobbies include creative writing, bullet journaling, doing difficult logic puzzles, and pretending she knows how to analyze films. Over time, she has developed an interest in Asian American and East Asian history. Her goal is to promote diversity in education and make opportunities more accessible for traditionally overlooked students.
Arli Moyao-Ramirez | Bronx, New York | White Mountain School
Hello people! My name is Arli and I’m just a 16 year old from the South Bronx. Actually… maybe I’m just passionate about changing the world. I love to meet new people and enjoy talking about politics and recently found out that I like rock climbing. I go to a boarding school in New Hampshire and find myself busy with engaging the school community in important conversations such as racism and the power of peace. My sophomore year, I co-founded a Latinx Affinity Group to give students of color a safe space to have meaningful conversations. Like Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent, I’m only passionately curious.” Just passionately seeking out ways to help others through and empower communities like mine. Going to new places, trying new foods, trying out different hobbies and learning new languages, and overall engaging with a greater community is the best way to strive for peace. In a world like ours, that’s what I plan to do. Becoming a global citizen is crucial more than ever and by learning about each other we can become people that learn how to accept differences and work together.
Laya Reddy | Vernon Hills, Illinois | Adlai E. Stevenson High School
Laya Reddy is a junior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois. She is passionate about education reform, especially regarding resource equity and gender disparity in STEM education. In her spare time, Laya enjoys writing poetry. She has been recognized by the National Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards, and other works of hers have been published in Hypernova Lit and Canvas Magazine. When she is not devouring literature or chatting about education, she can be found munching on bell peppers.
Clara Richards | Charlotte, North Carolina | Myers Park High School
I’m interested in how I can create change in my community. I’m a senior at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, North Carolina and am the editor-in-chief of the Hoofprint, our school paper. Working on the paper has inspired me to grow as a writer and communicator. Outside of school, I’m always moving: I run cross country & track and love spending time outside.
Julianna Russ | Fort Thomas, Kentucky | Highlands High School
Julianna is a junior in high school with a passion for writing, reading, and filmmaking. She is the author of a variety of academic works, and she successfully ventured into investigative journalism by creating a documentary film in 2018. It was then that she realized her love for storytelling, and decided it was the only future she saw for herself. Julianna is also a lover of government and politics, an activist, and a useful addition to a team on trivia night! She is currently serving as the Membership Director for the Kentucky High School Democrats and the Political Lead and co-founder of the Fort Thomas March For Our Lives chapter. In the past, she also served in the role of Kentucky co-lead for the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She participates in mock trial, the Cappies high school theatre critique program, and theatre. She’d like to thank her late mother for instilling a love of writing, politics, and human beings in her from an early age, which has come to represent everything Julianna stands for now.
Hawa Hamidou Tabayi | Salem, Massachusetts | Salem High School
Trying to make the world a better place through advocating for individuals that are underrepresented and silenced in today’s world. Interested in educating and breaking down stigma within the public and global health community by communicating scientific ideas that urge for change, growth and empathy. Fascinated by the wonders of the scientific world and the role that science plays throughout the vast array of current dilemmas in the world.
Leigh Walden | Larkspur, Colorado | Castle View High School
My name is Leigh Walden, and I’m a junior at Castle View High School in Castle Rock, Colorado. I have always had a lot to say, and, fortunately, I am usually surrounded by people willing to listen. My goal is to get others to realize that their ability to have an opinion and share it is their greatest assets. As the captain for my speech and debate team and leader in my school’s student advisory group, I encourage my peers to voice their concerns. This has proven to be the only way to address problems and come up with solutions for the betterment of every party involved. I am a passionate about the environment, public education, and ice cream, however most people find I’m passionate about just about anything when I do enough research.
Fatemeh Zahra Yarali | Murray, Kentucky | Murray High School
Fatemeh Zahra Yarali is a senior at Murray High School in Murray, Kentucky. Her favorite hobbies include cooking for and watching Scandal with her friends. From youth, Yarali has been interested in what a future in serving the public might hold. As a first-generation immigrant, she values the opportunities presented to her here in the United States and works hard to ensure her peers can meet their full potential as well. Her academic interests include cognitive sciences, sociology, and government and politics. Yarali encourages political activism, social advocacy, and community service in just about all she does. She is a successful congressional debater in Kentucky, qualifying for Nationals 3 times and winning a state championship title at the KESDA state forensics tournament. She also founded an Amnesty International Chapter at her high school to introduce her peers and community to the many ways a single action in support of humanitarian causes can change the world around. Yarali hopes to pursue a degree in public and international affairs with a minor concentration in the study of the mind, brain, and behavior. She is excited to be a part of Student Voice and a generational movement to expand the horizons of people across the country and across the world — one article at a time.
About Student Voice
Student Voice is the nation’s largest by-students, for-students 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization inspired by the premise that education should work for all students. We believe that every student deserves quality civic education—and a direct platform to impact decisions that affect their lives. Through action-based civics programs, Student Voice leads and strengthens the movement of young people taking action on issues that most impact their education. For more information about Student Voice and joining the student voice movement, visit our website at StuVoice.org and follow @Stu_Voice and #StuVoice on social media.