Students and allies,
We’re grateful to be in community with you all as we navigate an intense season for our society. In the midst of unprecedented economic catastrophe, public health emergency and uprisings for Black liberation that are leading us towards long-awaited justice, young people are experiencing unprecedented strain and exercising remarkable resilience and power.
Like so much in our society, these many crises are playing out in the arena of our public school system. Dangerous and inequitable school reopenings threaten students who are most marginalized by our education system. The digital divide continues to prevent universal access to learning and disproportionately impact low-income students and students of color. We’ve seen, clearly, what happens when students lose access to the social safety nets that schools provide, and we fear a looming school funding crisis that will exacerbate inequity.
Here is where we’re finding hope: In the absence of leadership from adults, young people are stepping up, at school board meetings and in the streets, to demand that this distinct moment for education marks a pivotal shift for the way we think about learning. Throughout 2020, Student Voice has had the distinct honor to work alongside students who are on the frontlines of advancing justice in their schools and communities.
As we gear up for a school year unlike any other, our team is committed to prioritizing sustainability and equity, both in our team culture and in the work we do with students. We are proud to announce that we are transitioning to a non-hierarchical leadership structure that values internal power-sharing and affirms the distinct strengths that every student on our 16-person team contributes to push us toward the world we imagine and seek to build. We welcome Evon Mahesh into the role of Field Director, Jenna Yuan as Communications Director and Taylor Kahn-Perry as Strategic Director, and we recognize that our organizational leadership and structure will continue to evolve to meet the demands of the world around us.
We are also reaffirming our commitment to making education justice action accessible for young people and are proud to move towards paying students for their critical organizing and storytelling work. During the 2020-21 school year, we are guaranteeing that all our Student Voice Ambassadors and Journalism Fellows will receive $500 stipends, as well as providing our Organizing Fellows with a special pool of funding allocated on the basis of request and need. To be clear, we know that a small stipend is not a substitute for a part-time job, but our goal is to continue growing towards paying students an equitable and livable wage for their participation in our programs. We understand financial accessibility is a critical part of elevating marginalized voices in education justice. We are committed to continue paying students for their work and hope other organizations will follow suit.
This year, we are refocusing our organizing strategies to align with our values and to respond to the world around us. By tripling the number of students in our programs, we are engaging students from communities across the country that we haven’t been able to before. We are firm believers in the fact that no singular national strategy will be effective in every local area and are shifting our efforts to be more intentionally and robustly place-based than before. Through our new Learning Lab, any student, from across the country, can learn the fundamentals of education justice and receive support from a Student Voice team member. As a national organization, we are committed to equipping young people with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to lead the charge in their own communities.
We are also formalizing our partnerships with the many incredible organizations across the country that are already doing impactful work to advance education justice in their local communities through the Education Justice Collective (EJC). Through the EJC, we helped convene 15+ youth-driven organizations across the country to partner on a set of student-crafted guiding principles that became the Move School Forward campaign, where we engaged students for 30 days of action. We know that our voices will be louder together and are committed to continuing to form meaningful partnerships with our peers in youth-led education justice organizing.
As seen before in our history, the young people are taking the narrative into their own hands and shaping the course of our future. Students are leading the way in calling for racial justice, systemic change, and a more equitable nation. At Student Voice, we believe that education is the key to unlock the world we wish to see. As we look ahead into an unprecedented year in every aspect of life, we ask that you step in and join the fight for education justice. Support our mission. Create meaningful partnerships with students. Together, we can harness the power of this moment and reimagine the role of education in creating a society we can all take pride in.
About Student Voice
Student Voice is a by-students, for-students 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in all 50 states to equip students as storytellers, organizers and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. Through direct civic action, Student Voice helps students hold their schools and surrounding communities accountable to the Student Bill of Rights and prepares them to become lifelong agents of social and political change. For more information about Student Voice, visit our website at StuVoice.org and follow @Stu_Voice and #StuVoice on social media.