Time to educate the education system: Education Fellows speak up and speak out
“Some of the teachers do not represent the demographics they are expected to teach and that students have to see themselves in their teachers.” Education Group A. fellow Bella Melendez mentions this as she and other Education fellows explore the inequalities when it comes to youth representation and youth voices in the school system. They cross- examine previous and current data regarding high school students on youth representation. They use this data, research, and personal experiences to develop their podcasts, poems, and workshop sessions. Some students share ” I am Poems” to drive awareness about the black and brown student experiences. Education fellows are continuing work from the 2019 ” Speak Up, Speak Out” policy brief which includes a 3-year survey by high school -college Gem Project Fellows. Based upon the 2019 policy brief consisting of survey questions surrounding youth voice on teacher and student relations, fellows discover findings suggesting the increased lack of youth representation on school system decisions. Fellows use these findings to formulate arguments on inadequate access to providing diverse teaching boards and the intersection between racism and education. In total, the survey captures 340 youth respondents from 2019-2021 reflecting their responses to the question: ” Do you feel you are included in your school’s decision making?” A total of 61.5% of students state they don’t feel included in their school’s decision-making.
Podcasts as we know are engaging platforms where people can share their different messages, stories, and ideas. You can appeal to your audiences’ emotions with things such as humor, entertainment, or humor. Education fellows continue to develop podcasts to inform and inspire people with information about the education system and youth representation. One of the great podcasts is ” S.O.A.R.” ( Scholars-Organizing-Attaining-Resolutions and Empowering Voices). Our fellows get the opportunity to speak with different influential leaders such as elected official LaMonica McIver. Fellow Bella Melendez references her shared experiences when it comes to education inequalities. Her group’s podcast S.O.A.R. discusses the passing of the new Texas State Bill regarding the Ku Klux Klan. One of the common themes that continue to rise up in conversations she notices is that young people need to uncover the truth about the world. Education fellows like the Justice and Health fellows seek to not rehash the ongoing narratives of change but to actually make that change happen not just for young people but everyone.
Education fellows believe that education never ends and that fresh perspectives are necessary to bring about change. Educating the education system is about providing school systems with education about important social topics that play a role in the relationships between students and their education. It’s about serving communities of color where black and brown students don’t have to feel ashamed of who they are to receive a good quality education. It’s about giving that professor, tutor, or teacher of color a rightful place in the school system and being able to teach and inspire students who look like them and share similar experiences.
Recently an article ” Here’s what black students have to say about “critical race theory bans'” published by Char Adams discusses how black and brown students are saying about the lack of access to information about the different levels of racism. One of the students said that she learned more from social media about important information on race than she did in school. This presents a unique and necessary perspective on the ongoing issues young students are observing within their schools. Important statements made by these students include “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t allow our students to learn about their identities, because for so long in the K-12 education system, students have been taught history from a white narrative,” said Ekene Okolo, a 17-year-old senior at Westview High School in San Diego. “The banning of CRT makes it seem like POC (people of color) identities aren’t worthy enough of being shared or talked about. It keeps the white narrative at the forefront of our education system.” These students like our Education fellows are dissatisfied with what they are witnessing in their schools and are determined to make a difference for themselves and their peers.
“We champion on time graduation through peer mentoring, youth organizing, employment, and service-learning initiatives, with a social justice approach.”
Sierra Cole is a communications and public relations professional. In 2021 she joined The Gem Project as an inaugural Story Corps Fellow, capturing the stories and work of our youth organizers.⠀