Meaningful Student Involvement in high schools is experiential, intensive and offers direct connections between the school and the larger community. Many gains in youth development occur through conscientious, thoughtful student voice activities, particularly when Student/Adult Partnerships are formed. (Mitra, 2004)
Action may happen in longer duration than in elementary or middle school years. Students lead action and have full responsibility and authority in many activities with adults acting as coaches that guide students in a mostly self-directed process of inquiry and discovery. There are activities where students have been meaningfully involved in high schools, including specific skill building and important learning connections.
High School Students
When high school students are meaningfully involved in advocacy they can learn a variety of skills. For instance, advocating for a student-created district budget can help them learn about issues in education, group decision-making, and diversity awareness. It can reinforce skills such as writing, math, communications, and applied citizenship. Engaging students as partners in teaching by having them teach classroom courses can teach students about a variety of issues, including classroom planning, and reinforce subject knowledge about the they are topic they are teaching. The opportunity can also teach or reinforce their facilitation and presentation skills, evaluation skills, and overall communications skills.
Engaging high school students in education decision-making through full membership on school improvement committees is one way they can be meaningfully involved. This can teach them practical community building and about issues in education. The skills they can develop include conflict resolution, writing, statistical math, and the specific issue areas they are involved in addressing through school improvement. High school students can be engaged in facilitating training for teachers. This reinforces issue knowledge about whatever topic they are addressing, including diversity, youth issues, and community needs. Their skills in facilitation, communications, and writing can be developed further too.
With the range of decision-making opportunities for high school students to be meaningfully involved in, positions on teacher and principal hiring teams almost appear obvious. They can learn about group dynamics and issues in education, as well as practical considerations around hiring and firing. They also learn skills in collaboration and communication. When high school students are involved in advocacy, student-led forums and action planning can be a practical way to learn about issues in education and cultural dynamics among their peers. Their skills in facilitation, event planning, and communications can become more important than ever.
Student-led organizing provides opportunities for students to learn invaluable skills without parallel. For instance, high school students organizing an education conference for their peers and the larger community can help them learn about issues in education, event planning, issues in democratic governance and applied citizenship. They also learn concrete skills focused on communication.