11 Lessons from Student Voice Live!

On September 20, Student Voice held its second annual conference, Student Voice Live! in New York City at shootdigital studios.

Student Voice is a non-profit organization that is powering the global education conversation and geared towards amplifying, aggregating and empowering youth voices on big-issue topics. Research shows that only 47 percent of students believe they have a voice in decision-making and this dips to 36% in the 12th grade. Student Voice strives to enhance the overall effectiveness of education by ensuring students are regarded as equal stakeholders in their education experience. Including students on decisions pertaining to their education has been known to reduce absenteeism, enhance school climate, promote civic engagement, and build character amongst all students. Starting with weekly Twitter chats, Student Voice has become the world’s largest and most consistent online student dialogue, garnering more than 5,000,000 views worldwide.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 12.40.25 AM

Student Voice Live! 2014 — hosted by Hunger Games actress Jaqueline Emerson and with talks by high school senior and cancer researcher, Jack Andraka; author of the New York Times best-selling novel, “The Smartest Kids in the World,” Amanda Ripley; and The Director of the Office of Education Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, Richard Culatta – had more than 200 attendees!  The conference was full of poignant takeaways; in no particular order, some of the many important lessons discussed at and gleaned from Student Voice are:

  1. Actions speak louder than words.  Walk the Talk!
    Student Voice advocates for students to take charge of their own education and get involved with what they’re interested in — a mission that was visible at the event. Firstly, Student Voice Live! itself was put on by a team of 18 students who collaborated virtually across multiple schools, states and countries. Furthermore, the conference was the set for the first episode of the Student Ignite Show — which, as a web show produced, directed and filmed by students is a prime example of student voice in action.
  2. Entrepreneurship and education is like oil and vinegar.
    Entrepreneurs are not created — they’re empowered. This statement ties back to a broader argument that these more “intangible” skillsets and mindsets can’t necessarily be taught, but with proper guidance and concentrated effort, anything is possible.
  3. Growth happens when we become comfortable being uncomfortable.
    Change is the only constant.  Just as muscles get built only after exerting them to point of tear, so does growth come only when we keep pushing past the comfort zone.
  4. Innovations stem from constant problem solving.
    In trying to tackle a big issue, solving one problem creates another hurdle that needs to be surmounted in order to achieve the desired result. For example, Jack Andraka mentioned that after finding a tentative cure to pancreatic cancer, the problem was finding a lab that would allow him to test his theory.  Once he accomplished that, he had to find and conduct further research to support his experiment.
  5. Education isn’t just about books. It’s also about people and making connections.
    Sure book knowledge is useful but tapping into the knowledge gained from a network of connections and collaborating across this network can be a powerful, alternative source of education.
  6. Knowledge shouldn’t be exclusive.
    Many academic article and journals are locked behind pay-walls, as are online version of articles in many common publications. Beyond this, in some developing countries, girls are still denied the right to an education.  Also, globally, as well as in the United States, education seems to go to the highest bidder; people without the financial means to pay for it often can’t get a quality education or sometimes any education at all.
  7. Students deserve the same rights as everyone else.
    The 1969 US Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, affirmed that schools could only restrict speech that interferes with the education of other students or the operation of the school. Erik Martin and other students recently drafted a Student Bill of Rights that attempts to uphold this ruling and expounds upon the additional rights to which students are entitled. At Student Voice Live!, a panel of students, lawyers and teachers explored this draft bill, the evolution of student rights, which rights students are currently lacking and what students can do if they feel their rights are being violated.
  8. Students deserve to know how their school is run.
    School is theoretically for the students so direct conversation between students and the administrative team and transparency on scholastic decisions and actions builds an effective, inclusionary educational environment.
  9. If society repeatedly labels people as failures, at a certain point, they start believing it.
    This is a large part of the reasons why many minorities don’t engage in STEM or seek out mentors. They don’t think they are entitled to the same opportunities as everyone else nor qualified enough to get involved. This lack of diversity in STEM has inspired countless initiatives, many of which incorporate art — a universal language and globally relatable medium — in an attempt to draw in a larger and more varied group of people beyond the stereotypical Asians and the white men.
  10. Mentorship is organic.
    It’s not like online dating—you can’t pair people up randomly and force a relationship. The best partnerships happen when both parties can stand to gain from the interaction and want to help each other.
  11. Don’t take no for an answer. Rejection isn’t the end.
    Overwhelm the critics with evidence and support for your cause.

(Cross posted from the Smart Girls Loop)