More Than a Moment: The State of the Student Voice Movement

Over the past weeks, our nation has watched as brave students have stood up and spoken out...

Dear Ally,

Over the past weeks, our nation has watched as brave students have stood up and spoken out. They’ve proven what I had already known: that young people are thoughtful and committed citizens who will not be silenced or pushed aside. We have witnessed the power of students and know that this is more than a moment in the spotlight. It is part of a larger movement of young people calling for systematic change in American schools. We want to democratize schools. We must seize this opportunity to show the value and capability of students by amplifying their voices as a way to engage decision makers to create changes that benefit students.

I have spent the last few years learning from other students. I began this work in my junior year of high school after I noticed the inequity within the school systems in my home state of South Carolina. I started working with school, district and state leaders to bring student voices to the table. During the 2016-17 academic year, I took a gap year to meet students across the United States and watched as students fought to be heard. I facilitated roundtable discussions in which students expressed their greatest fears and shared their wildest hopes. Through these interactions, I found that in school, where students are expected to understand civic engagement, they are rarely given opportunities to practice it.

This week we saw over one million students walk out of their schools to demand accountability and representation from legislators. Beyond this, students are organizing marches, facilitating dialogues and accelerating school and governmental policy. However, we cannot and will not stop here: now is the time to be bold and to take action on critical issues. I am challenging students, teachers, allies, and partners to continue to stand up, speak out and challenge your peers to stand beside you. Change is coming.

In 2018, Student Voice is committed to involving 10 million students online and in-person in the movement, by focusing on the following programs:

  • Student Voice Storycorps, a cohort of high school writers, will learn from industry experts on utilizing local and national media to amplify their message. The Storycorps will launch this spring and is still looking for organizations and media partners to assist with mentoring students. Organization and journalist please reach out to me directly. Students can report on the state of schools by using #stuvoice. Our team is committed to responding to messages across all platforms.
  • Student Voice Coalition, a Facebook group of student activists, aggregates best practices from community and organization leaders to advance the movement. Join the coalition of change-makers here.
  • Student Voice Ambassadors, a cohort of high school activists, accelerates local education policy by empowering students with the tools and resources needed for grassroots organizing. The application for the next cohort of ambassadors will be released spring 2018. Subscribe to Student Voice Weekly, a weekly e-newsletter, to be notified when the application is live.

As the new executive director of Student Voice, I’m committed to learning from students and their organizations across the United States. I want to speak directly with students leading work in their communities. Over the coming weeks, I will be personally reaching out to student organizations from coast-to-coast. In the meantime, you can reach me at merrit@stuvoice.org, (803) 446-6642, or across social media @merritjones.

The movement is certainly live,

Merrit Jones

Executive Director, Student Voice

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.