“We can make our voice louder, we can make them hear us by forming this group and doing something positive.” – Brainerd High School senior

“I just feel like if they listen, some things wouldn’t happen like they do. We’d have better health, better teachers, better everything.” – Howard senior 

Teachers, counselors, and parents across Hamilton County have found common places to work with one another across school lines. These places vary from professional development workshops to organizations that support various schools. What’s interesting is that there are very few spaces for students from different schools to meet that aren’t competitive. We may see one another at a football game, mock trial competition, or maybe even when we take the ACT, but when do we get the chance to collaborate and improve our community?

Student voice is integral when discussing issues in our education system because we spend more time in our county’s schools than any other group. It’s hard to form a cohesive student voice when we don’t have opportunities to come together; remaining separated can be detrimental if we truly want to make change. We are working to create these opportunities for Hamilton County students. We started by organizing Student Roundtables, inviting students from every high school in Hamilton County to share their thoughts on our school system.

We recently held a student roundtable at The Howard School. We were happy to have six students representing 5 different high schools attend because having a smaller group allowed us to have a much more intimate and deep discussion. They were shy at first but as we began working through icebreakers, asking questions such as “What is one thing you believe your school is doing well?”, we saw ideas begin to flow. A student from Brainerd responded, ”My teacher’s text me daily asking “are you okay”. We have teachers that do that. We have teachers that care.” When asked if they feel like they have a say in decision making students expressed frustration in being left out – “Our students don’t really have a voice. They listen to us, but it goes in one ear and out the other. We don’t have a voice.”

We also asked questions such as, “If we were going to go to the schools and out to the community, what would be the best groups to reach out to?” A student responded, I think y’all should reach out to anybody honestly. You have students from hard places, like the hood, but they want to do good, to better themselves. You should reach out to everybody.” Another focused on the necessity of provided food and snacks for participants – “Ima be honest…. Food. That’s like the number one thing. They would be like, “shoot, they got us free food.”

Email nick@unifi-ed and akia@unifi-ed if you’re interested in learning more about our Student Team, and if you’d like to attend or host a Student Roundtable in your area.

Are you a high school student passionate about education and student voice? Apply to join our team and become a Student Organizer! Click through for a job description.