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School makes efforts to increase student voice

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Even though students are the people who will benefit most from the way a school is run, they often don’t get a say in their education. Administration and students alike are currently working to give students a voice in school, but this was not always the case.

In the case of freshman orientation, for example, Ralph D’Amato, head guidance counselor, said, “Back in the day, it was a canned program, where, like ‘here’s a script,’ and they get to do this now. In the last couple of years, students have kind of decided what would be the best thing. For example, they really talked about how important getting schedules to freshmen during orientation is, where three or four years ago, that never happened.”

Similar to the ways PRIDE has been transformed to integrate and be led by students other programs within the school are putting their focus on supporting youth voice.

There are more opportunities than ever for students who want to be involved in the school.

Many school committees have now made room for student’s voice, such as the Center for Secondary School Reform Committee, CSSR, which visits other schools to work on issues such as advisory and schedules to help transform the school. Many students took part in forums over the summer to create a mission statement for this group and begin the work of making the high school more student-centered.

The administration is trying to involve students by giving them the opportunity to be on committees. For example, Raymond Byron, the ninth grade administrator, said, “I personally have added students on my safety committee.”

Other school-based programs such as DECA, an entrepreneuring and leadership program; or Future Farmers of America (FFA), which is a vo-ag leadership program promote student leadership. All of these groups are working to change the school for the better and elect student leaders to guide the work.

Unfortunately, just because students voice their concerns does not mean that their suggestions will be used. Not every idea is realistic, and even realistic ideas have to go through a process before they can be implemented.

When asked if the administration listens to students, Joe Chiappetta, a junior, said he thinks that the administration listens to students’ opinions “for big matters,” and sometimes smaller issues too.

Despite the school’s efforts to listen to students, D’Amato doesn’t think that students feel heard. He said, “I would assume that if we were to take a poll, most students would say they’re not being heard because that’s developmentally normal.”

It’s true that some students don’t think the school is doing as much as it could to listen to students’ opinions.

Some students said that even though the school may listen to opinions, they don’t implement them. Gigi Mendez and Olivia Vaughters said, “I think they take it into consideration, but they struggle to execute it.”

When asked if the school considers students’ ideas, freshman Sidney Salafia said, “No, they don’t. They might listen to us and maybe write it down, but they don’t do anything to change it.”

Even if the school still needs to work harder to listen to students, students are gaining some power in making change happen. D’Amato said, “I would say the biggest power they [the students] have is to advocate for themselves and to have time with people that make decisions.”

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School makes efforts to increase student voice